Facebook Removes "Inauthentic" Left-Wing Accounts

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Facebook says it can not identify who is behind the latest political influence campaign, but says it sees similarities with the 2016 effort led by Russian actors.

Facebook said Tuesday it removed over a dozen pages, profiles and accounts from its social network ahead of this year's midterm elections in November, warning of "bad actors" and comparing them to a previous investigation that concluded Russia-backed accounts abused the network during the 2016 election.

Facebook said the perpetrators this year were "more careful to cover their tracks" than those it found trying to influence the 2016 election, in part because of steps it has taken to prevent a recurrence of the 2016 abuses.

The US intelligence community has concluded that Russian Federation sought to sway the vote in Donald Trump's favor, and Facebook was a primary tool in that effort, using targeted ads to escalate political tensions and push divisive online content.

It said that there were more than 9,500 Facebook posts created by the accounts and one piece of content on Instagram.

Trump, now president, has repeatedly downplayed Kremlin efforts to interfere in United States democracy.

Allegations of Russian involvement in Trump's 2016 victory have dogged his presidency.

President Donald Trump has offered mixed messages on Russian interference, at times even calling it a "hoax".

While the company's announcement did not rule out Russian sources for the latest removed material, it noted that "whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past".

"But we don't believe the evidence is strong enough at this time to make public attribution to the IRA", Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamps said during a conference call with reporters.

"The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust, and division in an attempt to undermine public faith in our institutions and our political system".

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Facebook has so far removed eight pages, 17 profiles, and seven Instagram accounts for violating its ban on "coordinated inauthentic behavior".

There are not many details presented about the origin of these pages, but there is a link established between a page involved in organizing Unite The Right counterprotests and an IRA account. The "No Unite the Right 2 - DC" event was meant to be a counter-protest to a rally planned by right-wing groups as a follow-up to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" protests in Charlottesville.

The State Department on Wednesday lauded Facebook for removing several "inauthentic" accounts that it found were associated with a coordinated campaign to spread disinformation, and specifically called out Russian Federation for its efforts to sow discord. While the event was initially created by the alleged fake account, the protest it willed into existence began to be taken seriously by real people - the majority of the coordination, planning, and direction since its creation was the work of a number of real activist groups and individuals in the D.C. area, who don't agree with Facebook's decision to shutter the event.

USA lawmakers have introduced multiple bills aimed at boosting election security.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said at the hearing that he shudders when he hears the words "regulate the internet" - an action he wants Congress to avoid.

"One of the IRA accounts we disabled in 2017 shared a Facebook Event hosted by the "Resisters" Page [the one disabled today]", Facebook said.

One fake page called "Resisters" was involved in co-ordinating a protest in Washington between August 10-12.