Facebook Closes 32 Accounts it Says Was Spreading Fake News

Technology

Facebook announced it has removed thirty-two accounts from both the Facebook and Instagram platforms that were involved in what it calls inauthentic behavior. The company did not attribute the activity to any group or country but said some of the activity discovered was consistent with behavior exhibited by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA).

Facebook says it removed eight pages and seventeen profiles on Facebook, as well as seven Instagram accounts. The pages and profiles, seemed to have been fostering anti-President-Trump sentiment.

“Security is not something that’s ever done. We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics. It’s an arms race and we need to constantly improve too,” a statement released by the company read.

“It’s why we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to prevent bad actors misusing Facebook — as well as working much more closely with law enforcement and other tech companies to better understand the threats we face.”

According to the company, more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of these pages which were created between March 2017 and May of this year. The accounts ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram.

The goal of the accounts, according to preliminary findings, was to create protests and get individuals to attend them. The accounts created about thirty events since May 2017. About half of them had interest expressed in them by fewer than 100 accounts. The largest event had 4,700 accounts interested in attending it, and 1,400 users that said they would attend.

The company said evidence exists of connections between the accounts and previously identified IRA accounts. In one case, Facebook says, a known IRA account was an administrator on a Facebook Page controlled by one of the groups that were suspended. The company is stressing though that such a detail is not enough to make firm attribution as to the responsibility of the action.

There are a number of protests planned in Washington D.C. for next week. Some of the events created by the accounts that were suspended were original events and some were created as counter-protests to the already scheduled protests. One of the events for example, “No Unite the Right 2, D.C.” was created to counter a “Unite the Right” event taking place.

Those developments prompted Facebook to share the information they’ve discovered with law enforcement officials and with Congress. “As we said this is an early stage for us to [sic] sharing this information because we don’t have perfect information and we’re going — we’re sharing this today because of the timing of the event that was planned for Washington,” said Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg during a call with reporters.

Members of Congress expressed concern with Facebook’s announcement as well as concern for whether the U.S. was prepared to defend itself from cyberattacks during the midterm elections this year.

“It’s clear much more work needs to be done before the midterms to harden our defenses, because foreign bad actors are using the exact same playbook they used in 2016 — dividing us along political and ideological lines,” wrote Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Twitter.

The Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing this week on efforts to spread divisiveness on social media ahead of the 2018 elections and next month, it plans to hold a hearing with representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter present to answer questions.

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