Facebook reveals details of foreign campaign to influence midterms

Facebook reveals details of foreign campaign to influence midterms
© Greg Nash

Facebook on Tuesday revealed new details about a batch of Russia-linked accounts on its platform and Instagram that attempted to spread politically divisive content in advance of the midterm elections.

The accounts posted divisive content on matters like race and gender and about public figures including President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE and rapper Kanye West.

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The company first revealed the accounts last week just before the midterm elections, saying that it promptly removed accounts engaged in a coordinate influence campaign following a tip from the FBI.

A group claiming to be the IRA took credit for the accounts, but Facebook said that it could not yet definitively attribute the content to the group.

"This effort may have been connected to the IRA, but we aren't best placed to say definitively whether that is the case," the company’s security chief Nathaniel Gleicher wrote in a blog post. "As multiple independent experts have pointed out, trolls have an incentive to claim that their activities are more widespread and influential than may be the case. That appears to be true here as well."

The company said it removed 36 Facebook accounts, six Facebook pages and 99 Instagram accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” — the company’s term for a group of accounts misrepresenting themselves, usually to influence discourse.

The company found that one of the pages had accrued 65,000 followers. That page mostly posted in French, according to Facebook. The six accounts purchased roughly $4,500 in ads, which did not run in the U.S.

Following revelations in 2017 about how its platform was manipulated to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has worked to uncover and reveal other coordinated misinformation campaigns it has found on its site.

The company has disclosed accounts linked to Russia, Iran and yet to be determined actors and says its working with law enforcement to curb misinformation and find other potential abuse.

Even as Facebook has seemed to temper foreign misinformation though, it still has yet to address the growing amount of domestic misinformation that's being spread across its Instagram platform.