Oct 21, 2019

Facebook takes down Russian and Iranian misinformation operations

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook announced Monday that it had removed a network of "coordinated inauthentic behavior" originating in Russia, as well as three others originating in Iran, bringing the total number of such "information operations" it has acted against in the last year to more than 50.

Why it matters: Some of the activity was linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency, the government-backed operation that flooded social media with propaganda during the 2016 election, creating networks of fake accounts and, per CNN, targeting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign.

Details: Facebook also announced a number of changes to its policies around political speech and elections as it ramps up security for the 2020 presidential election.

  • The labels it places on content determined by independent fact-checkers to be false will be "much more prominent," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
  • Facebook will also add new labeling to content that is from "state-sponsored media."
  • Facebook pages will tell visitors what country the page is operated from and the legal name of the person or organization operating it, and it is also adding new ways for the public and researchers to access and use its open library of all the political ads it has run.

The big picture: Zuckerberg says Facebook was caught on its "back foot" in handling misinformation in 2016 and that it is better prepared now. The changes come as Facebook is under fire for running inaccurate political ads from the Trump campaign — a policy that Zuckerberg defended last week.

What they're saying:

  • "I've referred to this as an arms race, that's the right analogy — they're getting better, we're getting better," Zuckerberg said.
  • He added that Facebook's ability to shut down the Russian operation while it was still in the early stages of building a following was one sign of Facebook's improved capabilities since 2016.
  • "The bad guys are going to keep trying to do this, and along with our partners, we're going to make it harder and harder for them to do this," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy.

What's next: Facebook's announcement comes two days before Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear at a House hearing on its Libra cryptocurrency project.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 5,375,648 — Total deaths: 343,721 — Total recoveries — 2,149,412Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,639,872 — Total deaths: 97,599 — Total recoveries: 361,239 — Total tested: 13,784,786Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.

Trumpworld's plan to brand Biden

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Mandel Ngan/AFP

Trump's advisers relish the contrast between his public appearances and Joe Biden's lack thereof. The former vice president, following the guidance of public experts, has eschewed public events and stayed home for months now. Trump, meanwhile, is out and about — masks be damned.

What we're hearing: Watch for plenty more mask-free outings from Trump, hyping the reopening of the economy and avoiding discussions of social distancing and death counts.