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Not Again: Facebook Detects Political Interference Ahead of US Midterms

(Image credit: Facebook)

Facebook has identified coordinated attempts operating on its social media platform to influence the U.S. midterm elections this November, The New York Times reported today. Facebook wrote on its blog that 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram have been removed.

According to the Times, Facebook told lawmakers that it hasn't been able to conclusively tie the accounts to Russia, but that it still believes the country may be involved. The Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) was indeed involved in election interference during the 2016 presidential campaign. Facebook wrote 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.

"We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts—including who may be behind this," Facebook's blog reads.

The coordination has been occuring on eight Facebook pages, 17 profiles and seven Instagram accounts, which Facebook wrote it first found two weeks ago. The pages were deeply rooted in divisive topics, like the #AbolishICE campaign to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, a page called Resisters that had interacted with an IRA account and a page planning another Unite the Right white supremacist rally like the one that occurred in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, wrote that more than 290,000 accounts followed one or more of the pages. Those accounts made more than 9,500 posts on Facebook and one on Instagram. Additionally, the creators paid approximately $11,000 to run 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook was bamboozled by the IRA's coordinated interference before, during and after the 2016 election and is now working with the FBI in an attempt to keep its platform from causing issues during the 2018 midterm elections.

Last week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted that he is "very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election [sic]," which was surprising as he had previously suggested Russia had not interfered in the election.

"We think it’s inevitable that we will find evidence and we will find other actors, whether these are from Russia, from other countries, or domestic actors that are looking to continue to try and abuse the platform,” Gleicher told the Times.

Earlier this month, a Microsoft security executive told the Aspen Security Forum that Microsoft had blocked attempts to hack into the campaigns of three congressional candidates running for seats in the 2018 midterm elections. 

You can read Facebook's series of blog posts about the investigation here.

  • redgarl
    Hope the stock crash.
    Reply
  • venym
    If you base your voting decisions on what you read on Facebook then no matter what you are poorly informed. If you think everything you read on Facebook is true, then you are an idiot.
    Reply
  • stdragon
    Facebook is a giant political PSYOP machine. If you base your politics based on what's in FB, then by definition, you're a LIV (low information voter).

    The Zuck has taken everyone, including the shareholders for a ride! If he's not already laughing all the way to the bank, he should be! The dude is a Machiavellian genius!
    Reply
  • jaredvoulo
    This is doubling down on an alibi leading up to November because these people see the writing on the wall which is there is NO BLUE WAVE COMING. It must be THE RUSSIANS... NOT THE BOOMING ECONOMY or the record high market or record low unemployment. This is fodder for the criminally stupid. Pleas excuse me if I take no stock in the rantings of an organization who censors conservative though and opinion like eating a bowl of cornflakes.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    @jaredvoulo multiple US intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI) have agreed that Russia interfered with the 2016 election in favour of Trump/Republicans, it doesn't seem that far fetched that they'd try to do it again. Whether or not the interference in 2016 actually resulted in changing the outcome of the election, or whether any interference in the midterm elections will do so, I have no idea.
    Reply
  • ubercake
    Darn those Russians! It's all their fault!

    What am I to do now???

    Since I am incapable of thinking on my own and without Russian influence on FB, I'll now have to vote based on corporate, special interest, European (minus Russian), Asian (minus Russian), African, South American and Australian influences or whoever else wants to guide me to act. Geesh!?
    Reply
  • jaredvoulo
    @tj hooker Unless you or anyone else can produce evidence that an electoral machine was hacked, this is the stupidest premise on the face of the Earth. I guess we are just drones that are incapable of making our own decisions unless we read them from a RUSSIAN source on Facebook. This is completely laughable. The dumbest premise to a completely FAKE argument I have EVER seen in my life. But these people LOVE to double down on failure and stupidity. It's a bold move Cotton. Let's see how that works out for them in November.
    Reply
  • dudmont
    The fact that outside countries seek to try to gain advantage as a result of elections in any country is not new. It's been going on for a long time. I would be worried if I went to the voting booth and there was a fellow there who reeked of vodka and put a gun into my back and told me who I had to vote for, otherwise, my concern is nil. The excuse for the result of 2016 is sorry and weak.
    Reply
  • stdragon
    21192130 said:
    @jaredvoulo multiple US intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI) have agreed that Russia interfered with the 2016 election in favour of Trump/Republicans, it doesn't seem that far fetched that they'd try to do it again. Whether or not the interference in 2016 actually resulted in changing the outcome of the election, or whether any interference in the midterm elections will do so, I have no idea.

    Technically, there's truth to this. But a bit of perspective. While yes, the Russian interference with the US electoral process, it was tantamount to peeing in a lake and them claiming it rose the water level. Technically true, but the impact is so trivial as to be academic anyways.

    Basically, the Deep State was angry that Trump got elected and shredded a Globalist movement. Fact is, Trump got elected not a person, but as a political weapon against the establishment. And why not, he only gets 4% approval in Washington DC. So by that measure, he's been completely vindicated.

    As for me? I don't trust the Russian more than any other nation that has its own interests at heart. But then again, the whole "The Russians, the Russians!!!" movement is just a bunch of media hyped FUD.
    Reply
  • alvaroafernandez
    Running ads is not interference.
    Reply