Facebook throws more secret ‘bad actors’ while leaving others in plain sight

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The global social media champion said he recently purged 32 pages related to disinformation and ‘inauthentic’ behavior on his platforms, but critics say Facebook still has a long way to go, along with key decisions to make around what is’ good ‘or’. bad content.

Facebook today announced that it has removed a number of accounts and pages that appear to be traced to insincere and deliberately secret operators and advertisers, which may or may not be linked to Russia. According to Facebook, nearly 300,000 users have followed at least one of the pages, which has appeared in the past year and a half, and which the company says it only learned about two weeks ago.

In a series of blog posts, company executives reported that Facebook investigated and ultimately deleted eight Facebook pages and 17 profiles, as well as seven Instagram accounts, which were found to violate the “ban on coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

The blog posts also suggest that the company found that the behavior it followed potentially matched the profile of Russian meddling, if it reflected new levels of stealth, but ultimately it “may never be able to identify the source.”

See also: Sandy Hook’s parents denounce low Facebook moderation in open letter to Mark Zuckerberg

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Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, explained in an article titled What we have found so far, “We deleted them all this morning, once we have completed our initial investigation and shared the information with U.S. law enforcement, Congress, other tech companies and the Atlantic CouncilDigital Forensic Research Laboratory of, a research organization that helps us identify and analyze abuse on Facebook. “

Gleicher indicated that the four most popular pages related to “bad actors” were “Aztlan Warriors”, “Black Elevation”, “Mindful Being” and “Resisters”. Together, they represented 9,500 “organic posts” and nearly 150 advertisements, paid for in US and Canadian dollars for a total of $ 11,000.

Facebook also announced that it had removed an event page for “No Unite the Right 2”, an alleged August counter-protest in which 2,600 users had expressed interest.

In response to this news, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) commented, “Today’s Facebook announcement demonstrates what we have long feared: that malicious foreign actors bearing the hallmarks of previously identified Russian influence campaigns will continue to abuse and militarize social media platforms to influence the American electorate. “

The company refrained from pointing the finger at Russia directly and stressed that these actors show how intruders and potential inducers improve in their craft. Facebook wrote in an introductory article,

It is clear that whoever created these accounts went to much more trouble to obscure their true identity than the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has done in the past. We think this could be in part due to the changes we’ve made over the past year to make this type of abuse much more difficult. But security is not something that is never done. We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and who constantly change tactics.

One of the IRA accounts that we deactivated in 2017 shared a Facebook event hosted by the “Resistance” page. This page also previously had an IRA account as one of its administrators for only seven minutes. These findings helped us uncover the other non-genuine accounts we disabled today.

John Bambenek, Vice President of Security Intelligence and Research at ThreatSTOP, commented by e-mail concerning the description of the events by Facebook, “Certainly this behavior seems typical of Russian agitprop where they play both sides of the political extreme to create controversy and, hopefully (from their point of view), a violent confrontation. Russia wants a disturbed United States, incapable of countering Russian aggression in Europe and elsewhere. “

At the same time, he noted, “their ongoing activities are not a partisan threat; they pose a threat to all Americans and it is important that, whatever the answer to this, we do not give Russia the affirmation and conflict that it seeks ”.

See also: Report: Facebook CEO Congratulates Trump on 2016 Win After ‘Innovative’ Social Campaign

Whether or not Russia is behind those 32 pages on Facebook’s servers, the question remains whether these types of operators will be upset (or upset) in the future.

Apart from certain public initiatives, announced new rules, and advertising campaigns aimed at improving users’ sense of security and truthfulness on Facebook, the company has always been low-key about the big picture – and precisely the methods it uses – in an incredibly data-rich world. Platform.

This includes his continued awareness or investigation of potential political manipulators, his advice on which controversial groups to allow, and his new aggressive man-driven and algorithmic pressure to remove “ fake news ” from the site.

For example, like Recode reported today: “In a conference call last week with reporters, Facebook executives were repeatedly asked if they had seen behavior by foreign actors that resembled the campaigns implemented by the Russia around the 2016 US election. Leaders dodged questions, declining to say whether or not Facebook encountered questionable behavior ahead of the November midterm elections. “

See also: Facebook reveals it shared user data longer than it said it would, and with more partners

When it comes to the topics of disinformation and political interference, it is also clear that Facebook has yet to find a way to tackle bogus, hateful and / or socially destructive content that is however totally ‘authentic“.

Even today, after months of apparent adjustments within the company, typing phrases such as “shooting hoax”, “socialism kills” and “Pizzagate” into Facebook’s search box will bring up a large range of absolutely disinforming and divisive content.

With the increase in cyber threats, it seems more essential than ever that Facebook users learn to be as savvy and critical as possible in their online consumption.

This means interpreting visual and verbal cues, and always looking for several outside sources to confirm our information. These skills for navigating the digital world have only been taught in schools for 10 or 15 years, unfortunately (with very varying emphasis), but there are numerous online guides to help any internet user to spot fake news or BS in general

It may even mean leaving behind some of our favorite, funniest, and most assertive pages, but cutting the crap out of a social media regime can offer all kinds of benefits; Despite all of Facebook’s addiction and flaws, a huge amount of totally interesting, informative, fun and 100% factual content from around the world continues to be hosted on the platform.

For now, anyway.

[Updated at 4:17pm EDT to correct professional title of John Bambenek and a typo misidentifying Rep. Adam Schiff’s political party]

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