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Hillicon Valley: Unmarked messages target Pennsylvania voters | Facebook removes fake Iran-based accounts | Twitter permanently suspend Bannon

Hillicon Valley: Unmarked messages target Pennsylvania voters | Facebook removes fake Iran-based accounts | Twitter permanently suspend Bannon

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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

UNMARKED MESSAGES TARGET PENNSYLVANIA: Unmarked texts that appear to be linked to a Republican firm urged President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE’s supporters to protest in Philadelphia Thursday outside of a building where ballots were being counted, The Washington Post reported Friday

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The messages were sent from phone numbers that had been leased by Opn Sesame, a firm run by the Trump campaign’s digital director Gary Coby that offers texting services to GOP candidates and causes, a person familiar with the matter told the Post. 

“ALERT: Radical Liberals & Dems are trying to steal this election from Trump!" the message reportedly stated. “We need YOU! Show your support at the corner of 12th St. & Arch St. in Philadelphia.”

The messages were sent in the hours before Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE took the lead in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, the Post reported. Ballots are still being counted in the state as of Friday morning. 

Coby and a spokesman for the Trump campaign declined to comment to the Post. A spokesperson for the Trump campaign was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Hill on Friday. 

It is unclear which of Opn Sesame’s clients sent the message, and the company does not disclose its full list of users, the Post reported. The company has worked on behalf of Republican clients, including the Republican National Committee which has reported roughly $4 million to Opn Sesame over the course of this year’s election, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics

The Trump campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission do not show payments to Opn Sesame, but a complaint filed this summer by ethics watchdog group Campaign Legal Center alleged that the campaign was using conduits set up and run by Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE, the former campaign manager, to pay subcontractors, the Post noted. Opn Sesame is among those subcontractors, according to the complaint

The message in the unmarked texts echo the narrative Trump and his allies have been pushing this week as results are tabulated in Pennsylvania and other swing states. 

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Read more here. 

FACEBOOK REMOVES FAKES: Facebook removed a network of fake accounts based in Iran that targeted protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, the tech giant said in a monthly report released Friday. 

Facebook removed 12 Facebook accounts, two pages and 307 Instagram accounts as part of the network for violating the company’s policy against foreign interference that is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity. 

Facebook said the network was “early in its audience building” and had about 10,000 followers when it was removed. It used fake accounts created around the same time to develop “fictitious personas who purported to be based in Israel and Iraq.”

The fake accounts posted memes, images and other content in Hebrew and Arabic targeting anti-Netanyahu protests in Israel and criticism of the prime minister and his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The accounts primarily targeted Israel, as well as Iraq, according to Facebook. 

Facebook said the “people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities,” but the company’s investigation found links to individuals associated with a Tehran-based IT company.  

Read more here

BANNING BANNON: Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon's Twitter account was suspended Thursday after allegedly calling for the nation's leading infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Ex-Trump doctor turned GOP lawmaker wants Biden to take cognitive test MORE's head "on pikes" on his podcast.

His podcast Twitter account @WarRoomPandemic was suspended after the statement went live.

In an email sent to The Hill, Twitter said Bannon's account was suspended for violating "our policy on the glorification of violence.”

Twitter added that it has policies in place to address explicit threats of violence and other forms of online abuse or harassment and hateful conduct.

Bannon's allegedly violent comments on his "War Room" YouTube podcast Thursday come as the nation has yet to see a decided victor in the presidential race against President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Read more here 

TWITTER TAKES DOWN FAKE AP ACCOUNTS: Twitter suspended a fake account masquerading as The Associated Press on Friday. The account sent out a tweet announcing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election before it was disbanded.

The account, @APMyWrist, garnered hundreds of likes and retweets on the post before the social media giant shut it down.

Ken Sweet, a real reporter for the AP, urged his followers to stay up to date on the election by following the legitimate account for The Associated Press.

"Fake @AP accounts are saying we called the election for Biden. We have not. Follow @AP_Politics," he wrote.

The election has not yet been called for either candidate as more ballots are continuing to be counted.

Read more here

Lighter click: Jim Carrey, call your agent

An op-ed to chew on: Americans must put aside bitter divisions to defend against foreign threats

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NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

How claims of dead Michigan voters spread faster than the facts (The New York Times / Jack Nicas) 

Trump’s power on Twitter, Facebook will outlive his presidency (The Washington Post / Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin)

Vietnamese hackers ran ‘fake news’ websites to target visitors (Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai)