May 16, 2019

Facebook cracks down on Israeli-based election disruption campaign

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook announced on Thursday that it shut down an Israeli network of accounts that spread misinformation and focused on an attempt to disrupt elections and influence individuals in Africa as well as Southeast Asia and Latin America. Facebook linked some of the malicious action to a commercial entity known as Archimedes Group, which it banned from its platform.

Why it matters: Efforts to manipulate Facebook users are becoming more evident around the world. Today’s report suggests that these campaigns are looking to target new areas in Africa and Southeast Asia that typically receive less attention in the "fake news" conversation.

  • The targeted areas are more mobile-dependent than other developed countries, and those populations tend to be more reliant on Facebook and Facebook-owner WhatsApp for news.
  • To date, most of the uncovered incidents of coordinated inauthentic behavior have originated from Russia, Ukraine and Iran and have targeted the U.S., Brazil and the Baltic states.

By the numbers: Facebook found that Archimedes Group paid approximately $812,000 for fake ads on its platform, some of which were still active last month. The first ad reportedly ran in December 2012. Facebook has now deleted 65 accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events, and 4 Instagram accounts associated with Archimedes Group.

  • Some members of Archimedes pretended to be local news organizations that "published allegedly leaked information about politicians," according to Facebook.

Buzz: The company sells a software package with "mass social media campaign and automation tools."

Go deeper: 2018 study found most of Twitter's 2016 fake-news sources still active

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The cost of going after Bloomberg

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Here's the growing dilemma for 2020 Democrats vying for a one-on-one showdown with frontrunner Bernie Sanders: Do they have the guts — and the money — to first stop Mike Bloomberg?

Why it matters: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all must weigh the costs of punching Bloomberg where he looks most vulnerable: stop-and-frisk, charges of sexism, billionaire entitlement. The more zealous the attacks, the greater the risk he turns his campaign ATM against them.

How Trump’s economy stacks up

Source: "Presidents and US Economy", Trump figures through 2019 courtesy of Alan Blinder; Note: Data shows real GDP and Q1 growth in each term is attributed to the previous president; Chart: Axios Visuals

Average economic growth under President Trump has outpaced the growth under Barack Obama, but not all of his recent predecessors.

Why it matters: GDP is the most comprehensive economic scorecard — and something presidents, especially Trump, use as an example of success. And it's especially relevant since Trump is running for re-election on his economic record.

Coronavirus cases rise as 14 American evacuees infected

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

14 Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus before being flown in a "specialist containment" on a plane repatriating U.S. citizens back home, the U.S. government said early Monday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,770 people and infected almost 70,000 others. Most cases and all but five of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. Taiwan confirmed its first death on Sunday, per multiple reports, in a 61-year-old man with underlying health conditions. Health officials were investigating how he became ill.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health