Technology

Facebook announces crackdown on 'coordinated social harm' campaigns

Facebook on Thursday announced that it was implementing a new policy targeting "coordinated social harm" campaigns.

Facebook's head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote in a blog post that the company was taking steps to crack down on "networks of primarily authentic users who organize to systematically violate our policies to cause harm on or off our platform."

The campaigns are separate from individuals who post on their own social media. They're also different from efforts launched by "inauthentic users" where it is not immediately clear who is running the social media page or account.

Facebook said it will now start disabling accounts and pages suspected of engaging in the activity. It will also take steps to reduce the reach of a campaign's content.

"Over the past several months, we have been working with teams across Facebook to expand our network disruption efforts so we can address threats that come from groups of authentic accounts coordinating on our platform to cause social harm," Gleicher wrote.

A recent example he pointed to was Facebook's disruption of an anti-COVID-19 restrictions group in Germany - the Querdenken movement - where pages associated with the group were removed for violating policies. Gleicher accused the group of inciting violence and spreading health misinformation.

"The people behind this activity used authentic and duplicate accounts to post and amplify violating content, primarily focused on promoting the conspiracy that the German government's COVID-19 restrictions are part of a larger plan to strip citizens of their freedoms and basic rights," Gleicher wrote. "This activity appeared to run across multiple internet services and the broader internet and typically portrayed violence as the way to overturn the pandemic-related government measures limiting personal freedoms."

Gleicher noted that not all content stemming from the Querdenken movement would be removed, but he noted additional action would be taken as needed.

Health officials have spoken out against the rampant spread of misinformation across social media platforms, particularly on topics like COVID-19. Earlier this summer, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy put out an advisory on addressing false or misleading health information that included recommendations for social media platforms and other tech firms.

Facebook in July pushed back on comments by President Biden, who said the company and other platforms were "killing people" by allowing vaccine misinformation to spread.

Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever at the time said, "We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by the facts."

"The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period," Lever added.

Updated at 7:32 p.m.

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