Gannett seeks FBI probe into fake Facebook followers

Gannett seeks FBI probe into fake Facebook followers
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Gannett Co., the company that owns USA Today and more than 100 other local media organizations, has asked the FBI to investigate a slew of fake Facebook accounts that followed the newspaper on the social media site.

The presence of fake accounts was so large that it accounted for half of USA Today's Facebook followers, amounting to millions of accounts, according to the newspaper.

The request is the latest chapter in Facebook's ongoing battle against phony users, accused of spreading spam and fake news articles. The social media giant cracked down on 30,000 accounts last month ahead of the first round of voting in France's presidential election.

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The spread of fake news stories on prominent social media platforms like Facebook has become an increasingly high-profile issue since the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The contest saw an unprecedented wave of fabricated news coverage that some argue influence the vote.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said after the election that the company was not responsible for influencing voters and spreading fake news.

But the company has taken steps in recent months to stymie the flow of fake news stories on its website. In March, for example, the company began flagging disputed news stories that appeared on its website.

While fake accounts appear all over Facebook, it is not clear why USA Today was the target of particularly large numbers of phony users.