Facebook removed 652 fake accounts and pages attempting to influence US elections

More bad news.
More bad news.
Image: Reuters/Leah Millis
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Facebook has taken down 652 fake accounts and pages ahead of US midterm elections, the company announced in a blog post late Tuesday (Aug. 21). According to Facebook, some of the removed accounts were part of ”coordinated inauthentic behavior” originating in Iran and Russia.

These are the latest in a growing number of accounts Facebook has identified as using the social network as a political weapon. Last month, the company detected and removed 32 pages, also for “coordinated inauthentic behavior”—though in that earlier case, none of the pages were explicitly tied to Russia or Iran.

Since the 2016 US presidential election, when a Kremlin-linked group called the “Internet Research Agency” turned to Facebook to spread misinformation and stir conflict around divisive social issues, the company has vowed to clamp down on bad actors. But today’s revelations demonstrate that suspected foreign agents are still attempting to use the platform to meddle with US elections.

Facebook’s disclosure comes on the heels of Microsoft’s announcement earlier this week that it had seized six domains created by notorious Russian hacker group APT28 to spoof government websites and conservative Washington think tanks. Experts believe the domains may have been created in advance of a phishing attack, where spoofed email addresses are used to send malware-laced emails.

The sheer volume of traffic on internet platforms like Facebook and Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform Azure make it difficult to detect the early signs of suspicious activity, but Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg believes technological tools can be used to thwart attacks before they happen.

“As I’ve said before, security is not something that you ever fully solve,” Zuckerberg said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “Our adversaries are sophisticated and well-funded but the shift we have made from reactive to proactive detection is a big change and is going to make Facebook safer over time.”

Facebook, Twitter, and Google are expected to testify at a Sep. 5 Senate hearing on foreign interference in US politics and social media.