Facebook says it identified ‘coordinated’ fake pages

Thursday, 02 Aug, 2018

Costs associated with that effort are part of the reason Facebook said last week that it expects its profit margins to decline, a warning that sent shares tumbling about 25 per cent, the biggest one-day loss of market cap in U.S. stock market history.

"This kind of behaviour is not allowed on Facebook because we don't want people or organisations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing", it said.

That said, Facebook acknowledged one instance of a connection between the Internet Research Agency and the fake accounts removed on Tuesday.

Democratic lawmakers said the disclosure only clarified what they have feared since the extent of Russian involvement in 2016 became clear more than a year ago.

"I think with pretty high confidence that.this was Russian-related", he said.

It is also placing political ads into a public database (which, of course, you must login to see) and claims to be using both artificial intelligence and human reviewers to identify unusual or suspicious coordinated campaigning behavior. Over this time period, they generated 9,500 posts and ran 150 ads for about $11,000.

They added that the perpetrators had been "more careful to cover their tracks" than in 2016, in part because of steps Facebook has taken to prevent abuse over the past year.

Facebook stopped short of saying the effort was aimed at influencing the U.S. midterm elections in November, although the timing of the suspicious activity would be consistent with such an attempt.

But executives warned that they are dealing with increasingly sophisticated political operatives, who are finding new ways to abuse Facebook's platforms. What's more, the ads were purchased in USA and Canadian dollars. Facebook's shares promptly dropped nearly 20 percent and haven't recovered.

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Facebook officials on a call with reporters said that one known account from Russia's Internet Research Agency was a co-administrator of one of the fake pages for seven minutes, but the company did not believe that was enough evidence to attribute the campaign to the Russian government.

For example, the Atlantic Council's researchers noted "language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation, as well as an overwhelming focus on polarizing issues".

In briefings on Capitol Hill, Facebook has told lawmakers that it suspects a Russian group is behind more than 30 pages advocating USA political stances, according to a congressional source briefed on the matter.

The pages were created between March 2017 and May 2018 and had a total of 290,000 followers. A progressive Facebook page called "Resisters" has been organizing a large protest, which will take place in the nation's capital next month.

A screengrab from one of the pages that Facebook shut down. But the names it released are reminiscent of groups set up by Russian agents to draw in and manipulate Americans with particular ethnic, cultural or political identities ahead of the 2016 election.

▻ They ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in USA and Canadian dollars.

The ads were paid for in both US and Canadian dollars, starting in April 2017 and ending in June 2018.

"Facebook said the "Resisters" page, which organized the "No Unite the Right 2" event, recruited real activists who "unwittingly helped build interest in" the event" and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests".