Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Facebook uncovers new global misinformation operations

Published:Thursday | August 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Facebook has identified and banned hundreds of accounts, groups and pages engaged in misleading political behaviour, a far larger discovery than a "sophisticated" effort it reported three weeks ago with great fanfare.

The social network said Tuesday that it had removed 652 pages, groups, and accounts linked to Russia and, unexpectedly, Iran, for "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" that included the sharing of political material.

Facebook has significantly stepped up policing of its platform since last year, when it acknowledged that Russian agents successfully ran political influence operations on its platform that were aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election. Other social media networks have done likewise, and continue to turn up fresh evidence of political disinformation campaigns.

Facebook's action in late July against 32 accounts possibly linked to Russia generally involved US political activity ahead of the midterm elections in November. By contrast, the latest group of apparently fake accounts appeared more intent on influencing US foreign policy and regional politics in the Middle East.

Shortly after Facebook's announcement, Twitter revealed that it had also suspended 284 accounts for "coordinated manipulation," many of them apparently originating from Iran. A day earlier, Microsoft also reported a new Russian effort to impersonate conservative US websites, potentially as part of an espionage campaign.