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Facebook removes 32 fake accounts involved in political influence campaign

Facebook removes 32 fake accounts involved in political influence campaign

Facebook has identified an ongoing effort to influence the USA mid-term elections, using inauthentic accounts and pages on the social network.

"I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future", said Warner, adding that he had received a briefing on the discoveries.

The network is the most extensive effort to interfere in American politics that Facebook has found and made public ahead of November's midterm elections. Moscow has denied involvement.

"It's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency has in the past".

The company says it removed 32 accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in "coordinated" behavior and appeared to be fake.

Facebook says it is still in early stages of an investigation and is sharing information with USA law enforcement and Congress.

While Facebook said that "some of the activity is consistent" with the IRA, it hasn't linked the campaign definitively to Russian Federation due to this same reason of obscurity.

"Today's disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation", Warner said in a statement Tuesday. Facebook says it doesn't know who is behind the efforts, but it found connections between the accounts it removed and the accounts connected to Russia's Internet Research Agency that it removed before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, per the AP. In February, the U.S. Justice Department indicted 13 Russian nationals, and the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.

Speaking more about the removal of pages, Facebook said that it identified these inauthentic pages active on its platform as part of its investigation in the election interference.

The company said more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the fake pages, with the earliest having been created in March 2017.

Facebook said it uncovered coordinated activity on issues like a sequel to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in which anti-fascist protesters clashed with white nationalists, one of whom struck and killed a peaceful protester with his vehicle.

Facebook said it already shared the information about today's suspended accounts with United States law enforcement, Congress, other technology companies, and the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, a research organization that helps Facebook identify and analyze abuse on its network.

The news comes just days after Facebook suffered the worst single-day evaporation of market value for any company, after missing revenue forecasts for the second quarter and offering soft growth projections. In one instance, the bad actors sought to use a third-party to buy advertising. "Yet we face determined, well-funded adversaries who won't give up and who are constantly changing tactics".

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Two U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Russia was behind the Facebook campaign, but one noted that "the similarities, aims and methodology relative to the 2016 Russian campaign are quite striking".

The company previously had said 126 million Americans may have seen Russian-backed political content on Facebook over a two-year period, and that 16 million may have been exposed to Russian information on Instagram.

During the midterms all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested.

"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 USA electorate", he said.