Facebook Uncovers Fake Accounts Ahead of Midterm Elections
Facebook says the company has removed 32 pages and accounts from its social media sites ahead of midterm elections in the United States.
In a statement July 31, Facebook said those removed had violated company policy barring "inauthentic coordinated behavior." The policy is in place because, the statement continued, "we don't want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing."
Facebook said it does not know who controlled the accounts but that they appeared to be fake. The company also did not directly suggest the pages were aimed at influencing the U.S. midterm elections in November. But it did compare the accounts to those set up by Russian-based Internet Research Agency, or IRA. It is facing criminal charges of illegal interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The social media company said it is still early in its investigation of possible fake accounts. It also said it has shared the information with U.S. law enforcement agencies, Congress, and other technology companies.
The first of the pages was created in March 2017. The other removed material included eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and seven accounts of the photo-sharing site Instagram.
Facebook said one of the pages had 290,000 followers. The most followed pages used names like "Aztlan Warriors," ″Black Elevation," ″Mindful Being," and "Resisters."
The accounts also spent about $11,000 for 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram. The money was paid in U.S. and Canadian dollars from April 2017 to June 2018. The account also created about 30 events since May 2017.
Facebook said since the company has increased efforts to prevent abuse, the creators of fake accounts have begun to employ trickier, more secretive efforts. For example, "they used VPNs and internet phone services, and paid third parties to run ads," the statement said. VPNs are virtual private networks.
However, the company added that it had found some connections between these fake accounts and the removed IRA accounts. One of the IRA accounts shared a Facebook event hosted by the "Resister" page. And the two also briefly had the same administrator.
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