Facebook Warns Of ‘Bad Actors,’ Deletes Accounts Ahead Of Midterms

Casey GreeneAug 02, 2018

The company said it was unable to link any of the accounts or pages to Russian Federation, but admitted that some of their activity was "consistent" with that of the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed organisation accused of interfering with the 2016 presidential. A co-administrator for one of the pages was a known IRA account, Facebook security chief Alex Stamos said on the conference call.

"The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust, and division", said Senator Richard Burr, the committee's chairman. "The Russians want a weak America".

Washington imposed punitive sanctions on Russia following US intelligence agency conclusions that Moscow interfered to undermine the 2016 US elections, one of the reasons US-Russian relations are at a post-Cold War low.

"The president has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference into our electoral process from any nation state or other malicious actors", deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters.

The White House said the administration was supportive of Facebook's actions.

According to the networking site, they identified a coordinated political influence campaign through these inauthentic Facebook accounts.

They also used third parties to publish paid advertisements on Facebook, in violation of the social-media firm's policies banning foreign entities from buying U.S. political ads. In February, the U.S. Justice Department indicted 13 Russian nationals, and the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. In all, 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages, which had names like "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation" and "Resisters".

"Legitimate pages helped build interest in 'No Unite the Right 2, '" said Gleicher, noting pages posted information about transportation so people could attend the demonstration.

It's worth noting that Senator Mark Warner, a ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement immediately following Facebook's disclosure that outright blames this new coordinated network of misinformation on Russian Federation and the Kremlin. A previous event a year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to violent clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters, and the death of one counterprotester.

Updated 4:02 pm ET with new information regarding a potential Russian connection to the accounts and pages Facebook removed.

In this photo taken on March 25, 2015 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the F8 summit in San Francisco, California.

The company said the pages ran 150 ads for a total of approximately $11,000.

▻ The Pages created about 30 events since May 2017. Facebook's Gleicher said some of the administrators of the event page for the counter-protest were real accounts, and that the company had notified the people running the real accounts that it was taking down the event page.

This included using virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide their location, and using third parties to run ads on their behalf. Facebook previously said roughly 470 fake accounts had spent $100,000 on more than 3,500 ads surrounding the 2016 election.

Facebook executives said they did not have enough technical evidence to link the activity to any specific group at this time.

Facebook said it worked with law enforcement to identify these bogus pages, and significantly increased the amount of resources it devotes to security to tamp down manipulation on the platform.

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