Sep 1, 2020 - Technology

Facebook takes down Russian misinformation operation

A photo of the Facebook login screen in Russian.
Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency

Facebook took down fake accounts and pages associated with Russian operatives who sought to trick freelance journalists into writing stories on their behalf, the company announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Facebook, caught off guard by Russian misinformation campaigns ahead of the 2016 presidential election, is trying to be proactive about weeding out foreign actors attempting manipulation on the platform before November's election.

Context: 13 Facebook accounts and two pages were found to be linked to people associated with Russia's Internet Research Agency, which interfered on the platform in 2016. Facebook worked off a tip from the FBI.

Details: In August, Facebook removed a campaign linked to the IRA, which it deemed to be "largely unsuccessful" in getting journalists to write stories on its behalf.

  • Facebook is notifying those who were contacted by the IRA.
  • A report from cybersecurity firm Graphika said the IRA activity was small-scale, but similar to 2016 efforts to mostly criticize Democratic candidates. The campaign on Facebook was meant to draw attention to a website called peacedata.net that ran hundreds of articles.

The big picture: The move came amid a broader crackdown on political interference campaigns around the world.

  • Facebook also removed accounts and pages from U.S.-based strategic communications firm CLS Strategies, which was behind inauthentic activity aimed at users in certain Latin American countries.
  • In Pakistan, Facebook removed accounts, pages and groups suspected to be engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.
  • "We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing effort," Facebook wrote in a blog post.

By the numbers: Last month, Facebook removed 521 Facebook accounts, 72 Instagram accounts, 147 Facebook pages and 78 Facebook groups.

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