Facebook has announced that it has uncovered a coordinated disinformation operation ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The social media giant, which has been mired in a series of privacy and transparency scandals, seems to have become more vigilant regarding fake news and bots.
According to Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, the operation comprised 32 false pages and profiles, created between March of last year and this May, that interacted with some 290,000 people using ads, events and regular posts.
Facebook said that it relied on manual investigations, artificial intelligence and leads from law enforcement.
The content mainly revolved around specific, sensitive topics, such as race, fascism and feminism. But unlike previous disinformation campaigns relating to the US political landscape, the focus seems to be different this time: the postings seek to stir opposition to President Donald Trump.
Facebook informed law enforcement and lawmakers, deleted the profiles and said it would notify the real Facebook users who were victims of the operation.
Fingers Point to Russia Again
Facebook was able to link of the more popular pages in question to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Kremlin-backed organization that was heavily involved in the disinformation around the 2016 election. The page had a known IRA account as a co-administrator for a mere seven minutes before the co-administrator disappeared. Another known IRA account had also shared an event associated with the same page.
A Neverending Digital Arms Race
Facebook said that the operators of the newly banned pages had gotten smarter about covering their tracks. This time around, they didn’t use Russian Internet protocol addresses or pay with Russian rubles, they used third parties to buy ads and put more effort into promoting events – Facebook doesn’t scrutinize events as closely as political ads.
Over all, the operation resulted in 9,500 Facebook posts, 150 ads, and 30 promoted events, the largest of which had 4,700 accounts interested in attending, and 1,400 people registered to attend.