Facebook identifies effort to sow social discord ahead of US midterms

Some of the 652 fake accounts, pages removed originated in Russia and Iran

Facebook said it had identified a new political influence campaign on its platform that appeared intended to disrupt the US midterm elections.  Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg.

Facebook said it had identified a new political influence campaign on its platform that appeared intended to disrupt the US midterm elections. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg.

 

Facebook said it had identified a new political influence campaign on its platform that appeared intended to disrupt the US midterm elections.

The social network found and took down 652 fake accounts and pages that were trying to sow discord around social issues. Some of the accounts in the new influence campaign originated in Iran and Russia, Facebook said.

The campaign’s scale exceeded that of another influence operation that Facebook revealed last month, in which the company said it detected and removed 32 pages and fake accounts that had engaged in activity around divisive social issues before the midterms.

The revelations underscore how Facebook continues to be used as a weapon by others to try and influence the American electorate. After the 2016 presidential election, the company revealed that its site was used to spread divisive messages to voters on issues around race, gun control and the environment.

Interference

The Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked group, was at the centre of an indictment this year alleging interference in the 2016 presidential election.

While Facebook has vowed to clamp down on such misuse, the social network said last month that it had detected and removed 32 pages and fake accounts that had engaged in activity around divisive social issues ahead of the midterms.

One of those pages was joined by nearly 140,000 people, who believed they were fighting racism in the United States, while another set up dozens of events targeting left-wing activists.

While Facebook did not definitively link last month’s campaign to Russia, it said some of the tools and techniques used by the accounts were similar to those used by the Internet Research Agency. - New York Times