Facebook Removes "Inauthentic" Left-Wing Accounts

Facebook Shutters More Fake Accounts Believed to Be Linked to Russia

The company said it was still in the early stages of its investigation and did not yet know who may be behind the influence campaign for 2018 elections that will determine whether or not the Republican Party keeps control of Congress.

The company also did not directly suggest the pages were aimed at influencing the USA midterm elections in November. The company's stock has plunged more than 20 per cent since last week, after it reported slower user growth and rising costs for security and safety programs to crack down on abuse of its platform.

Facebook has so far removed eight pages, 17 profiles, and seven Instagram accounts for violating its ban on "coordinated inauthentic behavior".

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee who has exerted intense pressure on the social media companies, praised Facebook on Tuesday for bringing the activity into the public, but asked for its cooperation in updating laws to prevent influence campaigns.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, said on a call with reporters that the attempts to manipulate public opinion would likely become more sophisticated to evade Facebook's scrutiny, calling it an "arms race".

We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics.

Two U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Russia was behind the Facebook campaign, but one noted that "the similarities, aims and methodology relative to the 2016 Russian campaign are quite striking".

However, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement tying the latest Facebook activity directly to Russian Federation. A previous event a year ago in Charlottesville, South Carolina, led to violence by white supremacists. More than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the inauthentic pages Facebook identified.

Facebook says the pages ran about 150 ads for $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in United States and Canadian dollars. About half had fewer than 100 accounts interested in attending.

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

It said 2,600 people had expressed interest in the event, with 600 planning to attend the protest close to the White House.

For instance, in one case a group calling itself "Aztlan Warriors" posted what appeared to be an anti-colonialist message, featuring famous Native American warriors such as Crazy Horse and Geronimo. The "No Unite the Right 2 - DC" event was meant to be a counter-protest to a rally planned by right-wing groups as a follow-up to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" protests in Charlottesville.

"This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook because we don't want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing", the company said in a blogpost.

Gleicher says these threat actors used VPNs and internet phone services to hide their location following Facebook's crackdown on IRA and other fake accounts in recent months.

Since the 2016 election, Facebook has cracked down on fake accounts and tried to slow the spread of fake news and misinformation through outside fact-checkers. But there are differences, too.

"Some of the activity is consistent with what we saw from the IRA before and after the 2016 elections", Gleicher said. The company has expanded its security team, hiring counterterrorism experts and recruiting workers with government security clearances.

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