Schiff: New Facebook influence campaign bears hallmarks of 2016 Russian election activity

Greg Nash

Facebook’s revelation of a new influence campaign on its platform closely resembles Russia’s election interference activity seen during the 2016 election, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said shortly after news broke of the discovery.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said Facebook’s announcement is evidence that malicious foreign actors continue to use social media to sow discord in the United States, noting that this news comes less than 100 days before the 2018 midterm elections.{mosads}

“Today’s announcement from Facebook demonstrates what we’ve long feared: that malicious foreign actors bearing the hallmarks of previously-identified Russian influence campaigns continue to abuse and weaponize social media platforms to influence the U.S. electorate,” Schiff said in a statement.

“It is clear that much more work needs to be done before the midterm elections to harden our defenses, because foreign bad actors are using the exact same playbook they used in 2016 — dividing us along political and ideological lines, to the detriment of our cherished democratic system,” he added.

Schiff’s warnings came shortly after Facebook announced that it has discovered evidence of a coordinated political influence campaign using dozens of fake accounts and pages on its platform.

Facebook, which is working with law enforcement on the matter, said it has removed 32 pages and accounts across Facebook and its photo-sharing application Instagram for exhibiting “inauthentic behavior.” 

The social media company briefed lawmakers this week about its discovery, The New York Times first reported.

Facebook said Russia could’ve been behind this latest activity, and is working to confirm who ever was responsible.

“We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this,” Facebook said in a post on Tuesday.

“But we are sharing what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week. We will update this post with more details when we have them, or if the facts we have change,” the company added.

The company noted that “whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”

Schiff said Facebook must keep notifying the public of similar activity on its platform.

“Facebook must continue proactively identifying these actors, notifying Congress and law enforcement, and taking necessary steps to remove the foreign influence content and to notify legitimate Facebook users who fell victim to the same covert tradecraft that the Russian Internet Research Agency deployed through the 2016 election,” Schiff’s statement says.

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