Facebook finds 'sophisticated' efforts to disrupt U.S. politics

039;Hilarious & paranoid': Lavrov laughs at idea that Russia uses memes to destroy US democracy

The bogus material appeared on the social media platforms between March 2017 and May 2018, Facebook said, and combined the fake actors had racked up 290,000 accounts that followed them.

Facebook has taken down fake accounts after it uncovered "sophisticated" attempts at political influence ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.

While this particular investigation is still in its early stages, Facebook said it is sharing information with USA law enforcement.

Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who's helped lead the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, said the news shows that social media remains a propaganda target for the Russians.

The intelligence panel is planning a hearing in early September with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, and an executive from Google.

Of course, all of this comes after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was dragged before U.S. Congress to explain exactly how the platform let foreign operatives influence hundreds of thousands of users with deliberately dodgy information, and what Facebook plans to do about it.

There was also coordinated activity around #AbolishICE, a leftwing campaign aimed at ending the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the New York Times reported. Facebook said that anyone found to have followed one of the fraudulent pages or events has been alerted. Gleicher said the fake accounts managed to get real ones involved, which contributed to the interest in the event.

In some instances, the company said, the inauthentic accounts directly coordinated with unwitting legitimate Facebook users who were admins of other pages.

The names Facebook said were given to some of the deleted pages paralleled those of 2016 groups allegedly established by Russian agents to manipulate American voters with particular ethnic, cultural, or political identities.

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Samples of the inauthentic activity.

Facebook said the suspect accounts had also run about 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram, costing a total of $11,000 (£8,300). Facebook wrote in its blog posting that the newly discovered "bad actors" have used VPNs, internet phone services and third parties to run ads and create content, making them harder to track.

But the tech giant did say "some of the activity is consistent" with that of the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) - the Russian troll farm that managed many false Facebook accounts used to influence the 2016 vote.

The pages identified as "inauthentic" were all of the far left.

Facebook said it was disclosing the influence effort now in part because of the planned rallies.

The social media giant said the accounts were responsible for almost 10,000 posts and had spent $11,000 on 150 ads in the past year focused on controversial social issues such as white supremacist marches and immigration policies.

It added that it "may never be able to identify the source" for the fake accounts. The indictment accused the IRA of seeking, in part, "to conduct what it called "information warfare against the United States of America" through fictitious U.S. personas on social media platforms and other Internet-based media".

One of the administrators for a fake account was associated with "known IRA assets", whose access to Facebook was terminated seven minutes later.

"We know that Russians and other bad actors are going to continue to try to abuse our platform - before the midterms, probably during the midterms, after the midterms, and around other events and elections", Gleicher said.

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