Facebook suspends accounts engaged in 'inauthentic' political activity

FACEBOOK has uncovered a coordinated campaign using dozens of phony accounts apparently created to sway political opinion on its site heading into November's elections, a report said Tuesday. Meanwhile, besides this, Facebook in an official information informed that they have removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram as they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

Some accounts had connections to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) - the Russian-based group that interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

"We're still in the very early stages of our investigation and don't have all the facts - including who may be behind this", Facebook said Tuesday in a blog post.

Facebook said it found eight pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and seven Instagram accounts that were part of the effort with over 290,000 total followers.

Between April 2017 and June 2018, the accounts ran 150 ads costing $11,000 on the two platforms. They were paid for in American and Canadian dollars.

Facebook said it would tell users who had expressed interest in the counter-protest what action it had taken and why.

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"I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future", he continued.

Facebook has had to delete fake accounts after suffering the worst single-day evaporation of market value for any company, after missing revenue forecasts for the second quarter and offering soft growth projections.

Facebook said those behind the campaign had been "more careful to cover their tracks, adding: "We've found evidence of some connections between these accounts and IRA accounts we disabled previous year (.) but there are differences too".

The company has been working with the FBI to investigate the activity. Admins for the page connected with the admins of five legitimate pages to promote the event and post logistical information for protesters. The event, called "No Unite The Right 2 - DC", a counterprotest of a far-right rally, attracted several hundred users who said they were interested in it or planned to attend, Facebook said.

Citing unnamed sources, The New York Times reported that other "coordinated" activity revolved around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. That echoed efforts in 2016 to fan division around the Black Lives Matter movement. He said the full extent of this effort may not yet be known.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he was "glad that Facebook is taking some steps to pinpoint and address this activity".

The size of this latest, and now shutdown, campaign is smaller than the 2016 effort - possibly because whoever was behind it was testing the waters - and Facebook noted that the perpetrators has hidden their identities by using VPNs and paying third parties to run ads.

The company is using artificial intelligence and teams of human reviewers to detect automated accounts and suspicious election-related activity.

Having been publicly embarrassed and then excoriated for its failure to identify a massive misinformation campaign last time around, Facebook has expanded its security team, hiring several serious counterterrorism experts, and introduced new rules included the requirement for political advertisers to register with a U.S. addresses.

"We know that Russians and other bad actors are going to continue to try to abuse our platform - before the midterms, probably during the midterms, after the midterms, and around other events and elections", Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said earlier this month.

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