Facebook discovers coordinated political influence campaign ahead of midterm elections

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

However, company officials told Capitol Hill that Russian Federation was possibly involved, reports The Times.

In a statement July 31, Facebook said those removed had violated company policy barring "inauthentic coordinated behavior".

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it eliminated 32 accounts for what the company described as "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" ahead of the mid-term U.S. congressional elections in November.

"We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics", reads the company's blog post on the latest findings.

Though the world's biggest social media network has not yet attributed the accounts to any group, it says the campaign does bear some resemblance to the propaganda campaign allegedly run by Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA) in the run-up to the 2016 USA presidential election.

Facebook did not say who was behind the operation.

Facebook said it's working with law enforcement to investigate the campaign.

A man who identified himself as an administrator of Resisters, Washington activist Brendan Orsinger, said on a video call with Reuters that he had been invited to help operate the page by someone he knew only through Facebook messages. The most followed Facebook Pages were "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters". Gleicher said the fake accounts managed to get real ones involved, which contributed to the interest in the event.

Facebook discovered the accounts by "following up on thousands of leads, including information from law enforcement and lessons we learned from last year's IRA investigation", it said.

Facebook says it has uncovered sophisticated efforts to influence United States politics on its platforms.

Samples of the inauthentic activity. Additionally, the creators paid approximately $11,000 to run 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram.

The people behind the accounts removed today, which had a total of 290,000 followers, used virtual private networks (VPNs) to conceal their location and internet phone services to hide their identities.

"It's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past", the statement said. The examples included anti-Trump material and racially-charged posts, as well as a feminist post, although Facebook did not say if they were representative of the output of the accounts as a whole.

However, some users were not so impressed as many said they believed shutting down two dozen accounts would barely make a dent in combatting the spread of fake news.

"It's still very early", she said, adding: "We're always concerned with inauthentic content". At one point, Facebook said, one of the accounts was a co-admin of a page at the same time as a known IRA account - for seven minutes.

The announcement is Facebook's first acknowledgement of potential meddling ahead of the midterm elections in the USA in November.

In a series of briefings on Capitol Hill this week, the company told lawmakers that it detected the influence campaign on Facebook and Instagram as part of its investigations into election interference.

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion members worldwide, has come under increased scrutiny following revelations that its social network was used to spread misinformation before the 2016 elections, as well as other important elections and referendums elsewhere, such as the Brexit campaign in Britain.

- CNN's Nathan Hodge contributed reporting.

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