Creepy Facebook influence campaign targeted liberal activists, aimed for offline events

Aaron Brown
August 2, 2018

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it has identified a coordinated political influence campaign, with dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November's midterm elections, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Costs associated with that effort are part of the reason Facebook said last week that it expects its profit margins to decline, a warning that sent shares tumbling about 25 per cent, the biggest one-day loss of market cap in USA stock market history.

Today we removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.

The social media company that it couldn't tie the activity to Russian Federation, which interfered on its platform around the 2016 presidential election. "We disabled the event and reached out to the legitimate administrators of five other pages to let them know what's happened".

"Any attempt to interfere in our elections is an affront to our democracy and it will not be allowed", Pence said at a cybersecurity summit in NY late on July 31.

The Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also pointed his finger at Moscow. Warner expressed "pretty high confidence" that Russian Federation was behind the assault. But Facebook said the profiles shared a pattern of behavior with the previous Russian disinformation campaign, which was led by a group with Kremlin ties called the Internet Research Agency.

The blog post said: "We will not provide an assessment of the political motivations of the group behind this activity".

"These bad actors have been more careful to cover their tracks, in part due to the actions we've taken to prevent abuse over the past year", Gleicher said. 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.

The company also did not directly suggest the pages were aimed at influencing the US midterm elections in November. It has cracked down on fake accounts and tried to slow the spread of fake news and misinformation through outside fact-checkers. Facebook disclosed its findings after the New York Times reported on them earlier Tuesday. Facebook's shares promptly dropped nearly 20 percent and haven't recovered.

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The company said it was still in the early stages of its investigation and did not yet know who may be behind the influence campaign for 2018 elections that will determine whether or not the Republican Party keeps control of Congress.

For example, the Atlantic Council's researchers noted "language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation, as well as an overwhelming focus on polarizing issues".

This isn't the first time that bogus and ill-intentioned online activity has been linked to real offline events.

Facebook said Tuesday it shut down more than 30 fake pages.

It said more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the fake pages.

In one case, a known IRA account was a co-admin on one of the pages for seven minutes before the account was removed from Facebook.

The pages identified as "inauthentic" were all of the far left.

Facebook appears to be one of best tools ever created for influencing people on a mass scale. But their names parallel those of 2016 groups established by Russian agents to manipulate Americans with particular ethnic, cultural or political identities.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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