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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hundreds of political Facebook accounts, groups and pages — and 72 Instagram accounts — have been purged after using fake, AI-generated profile photos to masquerade as Americans, the company announced.

Why it matters: This is the first time Facebook has seen “a systemic use" of AI-generated photos in profile pictures "to make accounts look more authentic," Facebook head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher told the New York Times.

Yes, but: Gleicher also told the Times "that this AI technique did not actually make it harder for the company’s automated systems to detect the fakes, because the systems focus on patterns of behavior among accounts."

The big picture: Social media platforms face an uphill battle against misinformation ahead of the 2020 presidential election, as new tactics emerge and evolve.

Details: Many of the posts, which originated in the U.S. and Vietnam, targeted President Trump's impeachment and promoted conservative ideology and "family values and freedom of religion," Facebook said.

  • The accounts involved are tied to Epoch Media Group, parent company to the Epoch Times, Facebook found.
  • The group denied Facebook's findings in an email to the NYT.
  • The outlet was banned from placing ads on Facebook in August, after CNBC reported that it hid its connection to ads on the platform promoting Trump and conspiracy theories.

Go deeper: Misinformation haunts 2020 primaries

Go deeper

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.

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