Facebook removes accounts amid fears of Russian meddling in United States midterms

02 August, 2018, 01:21 | Author: Carlos George
  • Top Intel Dem says new Facebook finding 'further evidence' of Russian meddling

Facebook has identified a coordinated political influence campaign through dozens of inauthentic accounts on its platform ahead of November's us midterm election, it announced Tuesday.

In September 2017, Facebook acknowledged that Russians had indeed used fake identities to try to influence the USA electorate before and after the election, and had posted comments, ads and details about street protests to achieve this. Moscow has denied involvement.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, identified several of the accounts by name - including; "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters".

Facebook further mentioned in its blog post that they are still in the early stage of their investigation about the accounts which have been removed as they don't have all the facts and information.

"The set of actors we see now might be the IRA with improved capabilities, or it could be a separate group", explained Facebook's chief security officer Alex Stamos.

The company said it found 32 "fake" accounts on Facebook and Instagram, which it said it removed because they were involved in "coordinated" and "inauthentic" political behavior.

That may not sound like a lot, but as the New York Times points out, more than 290,000 accounts "followed at least one of the suspect pages".

The coordinators of a deadly white-supremacist event in Charlottesville previous year reportedly have been given a permit to hold a rally near the White House on August 12, the anniversary of the 2017 gathering.

Facebook for months has been on the defensive about influence activity on its site and concerns over user privacy tied to longstanding agreements with developers that allowed them access to private user data. A previous event a year ago in Charlottesville, South Carolina, led to violence by white supremacists.

The statement said all accounts had been removed and information was passed to United States government and law enforcement agencies. It publicly said it had been unable to tie the accounts to Russian Federation, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center 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 officials briefed on the matter.

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Facebook says it has detected a coordinated effort to use its social network to influence American politics ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

Facebook said it chose to share the information, despite not having all the facts, because there was a "connection" between the pages in question and a number of protests that were planned for Washington, DC next week.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said in a statement there would be a hearing on Wednesday about the online threat to USA election security.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment early this year revealed that Russia-backed actors coordinated and staged offline events-including one where Americans were hired to build a cage atop a flatbed truck with someone in a Hillary Clinton costume to promote the idea that she should be imprisoned. "The Russians want a weak America".

Last week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted that he is "very concerned that Russian Federation will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election [sic]", which was surprising as he had previously suggested Russian Federation had not interfered in the election.

"We've always known security's an arms race", said Sandberg.

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion members worldwide, has come under increased scrutiny following revelations that its social network was used to spread misinformation before the 2016 elections, as well as other important elections and referendums elsewhere, such as the Brexit campaign in Britain.

But official Washington connected those dots anyway, not least because the reported activity so closely mirrored Russian influence campaigns during the 2016 presidential election.

It's worth noting that Senator Mark Warner, a ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement immediately following Facebook's disclosure that outright blames this new coordinated network of misinformation on Russian Federation and the Kremlin.

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