Facebook Removes Fake Accounts
Facebook said on Tuesday that it had identified a political influence campaign that was potentially built to disrupt the midterm elections, with the company detecting and removing 32 pages and fake accounts that had engaged in activity around divisive social issues.
The company did not definitively link the campaign to Russia. But Facebook officials said some of the tools and techniques used by the accounts were similar to those used by the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-linked group that was at the center of an indictment this year alleging interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook said it had discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Activity was also detected around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign on social media that seeks to end the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
“At this point in our investigation, we do not have enough technical evidence to state definitively who is behind it,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy. “But we can say that these accounts engaged in some similar activity and have connected with known I.R.A accounts.”
Some researchers said Facebook took too long to take down the newly discovered pages. “It’s understandable that the scale of the problem is huge— but the budgets of social media firms are also massive,” said Sam Woolley, director of the digital intelligence lab at the think tank Institute for the Future and an expert in computational propaganda.
Facebook said some of its new security measures prevented the bad actors from placing ads. “When we look at the advertising that these actors engaged in from what we can see, they attempted to run one ad after our ads tool was in place. That ad did not run, and they made no further attempts,” Gleicher, told reporters Tuesday.