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Facebook shuts down disinformation network targeting US elections

Facebook has shut down a disinformation network of 32 accounts and pages which were putting out divisive messaging ahead of the upcoming US mid-term elections in November. Facebook said the accounts stands suspended for “coordinated inauthentic behavior”.

These accounts were created between March 2017 and May 2018, and lured 290,000 people with ads on topics such as racism, feminism, colonialism, and visible anti-Trump messaging. The accounts ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in US and Canadian dollars. The last ad was created just two months ago in June. The company says it does not have firm evidence of who has carried out this disinformation campaign, but it discovered that one of these accounts was associated an account of Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA) which Facebook disabled last year.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy said “some of the activity was consistent” with Russian group IRA to interfere in 2016 US Presidential Elections. IRA is a Kremlin-backed organization of Russian operatives that flooded Facebook with disinformation around the 2016 election. The most followed Facebook Pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” and “Resisters.” The remaining Pages had between zero and 10 followers, and the Instagram accounts had zero followers. The most popular page had 18,000 followers — and the least popular, 16 followers.

One of the pages “Resisters” created an event called “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” scheduled for August in Washington DC. “Resisters,” briefly had a co-administrator — for seven minutes — that was a known IRA account before the co-administrator disappeared, said Facebook. The company said it informed law enforcement before it deleted the profiles this morning. It also notified lawmakers of the activity this week, and said it would begin notifying the Facebook users who engaged with these ads.

Facebook also said in a press call that some of the 30 events created by these accounts have already taken place, but refused to disclose any further information on account of ongoing investigations. The company said it has shared information of such accounts with the Facebook’s partner Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to help it analyse the risks and damage these accounts have caused.

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