Facebook uncovers new meddling before 2018 U.S. mid-term elections

Marsha Scott
August 2, 2018

Credit: Frederic Legrand/ShutterstockAccording to the Times, Facebook told lawmakers that it hasn't been able to conclusively tie the accounts to Russian Federation, but that it still believes the country may be involved.

Facebook has identified coordinated attempts operating on its social media platform to influence the USA midterm elections this November, The New York Times reported today.

While this particular investigation is still in its early stages, Facebook said it is sharing information with US law enforcement.

Facebook said since the company has increased efforts to prevent abuse, the creators of fake accounts have begun to employ trickier, more secretive efforts.

Company officials refused to link the latest suspicious accounts and pages to Russian actors, but said the most recent activity involved some of the same tactics employed by the Internet Research Agency, Russian-backed troll farm named in a federal indictment into political interference in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Facebook said it will notify members of the social network who expressed interest in attending the counter-protest.

The "Resisters" page enlisted support from real followers for an August protest in Washington against the far-right "Unite the Right" group.

Facebook said it would continue to investigate the activity and share any further findings with law enforcement and Congress.

The news was earlier reported by The New York Times, which said lawmakers on Capitol Hill were told this week. The most followed pages used names like "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters".

Facebook did not want to talk about who could have been behind these accounts because they said that there isn't enough evidence to point the finger at Russian Federation. 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.

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Samples of the inauthentic activity. The accounts had about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram.

This included using virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide their location, and using third parties to run ads on their behalf.

American intelligence and law enforcement officials have been warning for months that Russia's efforts to undermine American democracy remain active and pose a threat to this year's elections.

"It's still very early", she said, adding: "We're always concerned with inauthentic content".

The identified accounts sought to "promote divisions and set Americans against one another", wrote Ben Nimmo and Graham Brookie of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab in a blog post Tuesday.

According to the DFRL, it's reasonable to conclude that some of the fake accounts were Russian in origin.

Stung after being duped by the Russian Internet research Agency before and after the 2016 presidential election, the social networking platform ratcheted up its efforts to root out cyberfraud. Those include eight pages and 17 profiles on Facebook, as well as seven accounts on Instagram, which Facebook owns.

Facebook stopped short of saying the effort was aimed at influencing the USA midterm elections in November, although the timing of the suspicious activity would be consistent with such an attempt.

Just last week, Facebook refused to answer questions about whether it had detected any such efforts to influence or interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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