Facebook Announces It Identified Ongoing Political Influence Campaign

Facebook Announces It Identified Ongoing Political Influence Campaign

Facebook Announces It Identified Ongoing Political Influence Campaign

Facebook has removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram for being involved in a coordinated campaign to influence social media users ahead of a crucial mid-term election vote in the US.

Facebook has been grappling with an ongoing public backlash for being slow to recognize Russian interfere in the 2016 USA presidential election, along with widespread concerns over its past data-sharing practices. It has been unable to tie the accounts to Russian Federation, whose Internet Research Agency was at the centre of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russian Federation was possibly involved, according to two of the officials.

"One of the IRA accounts we disabled in 2017 shared a Facebook Event hosted by the "Resisters" Page [the one disabled today]", Facebook said.

According to a Facebook official, the company this week briefed members of the U.S. House and Senate as well as officials at the Department of Homeland Security. Warner expressed "pretty high confidence" that Russian Federation was behind the assault.

"The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust, and division", said Senator Richard Burr, the committee's chairman. "The Russians want a weak America".

It is facing criminal charges of illegal interference in the 2016 USA presidential elections. But he said that Democrats, not his fellow Republicans, would be the ones targeted.

"The president has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference into our electoral process from any nation state or other malicious actors", deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters.

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Stung after being duped by the Russian Internet research Agency before and after the 2016 presidential election, the social networking platform ratcheted up its efforts to root out cyberfraud.

Facebook released the information on Tuesday because one of the suspended users - a previously identified IRA account - was listed as a co-administrator on an event scheduled next week in D.C., to protest a "Unite the Right" event.

Facebook identified influence activity around at least two issues, including the counter-protest to the Unite the Right 2 rally set next week in Washington. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the lead Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is blaming Russian Federation. A previous event past year in Charlottesville, South Carolina, led to violence by white supremacists. There was also an effort to amplify the "Abolish ICE" message pushed by liberals, the source said. That effort targeted people with both liberal and conservative leanings.

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The accounts also spent about $11,000 for 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook said 30 events were created by these Facebook accounts.

Facebook said it does not know who is behind the efforts, but said there may be connections to Russian Federation and that the pages and accounts were connected to protests planned in Washington next week. Facebook said that the "bad actors" used VPNs and internet phone services to hide their identity and even paid third parties to run ads on their behalf.

However, the company added that it had found some connections between these fake accounts and the removed IRA accounts.

According to The New York Times, which first reported the news, these accounts have engaged in a "coordinated political influence campaign".

Facebook has notified law enforcement agencies and Congress of the campaign.

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