Facebook says identified 'political influence campaign' ahead of United States midterm elections

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Facebook continued it had found some connections between the accounts it removed and the accounts connected to Russia's Internet Research Agency which it removed before and after the 2016 United States presidential elections.

In September 2017, Facebook acknowledged that Russians had indeed used fake identities to try to influence the USA electorate before and after the election, and had posted comments, ads and details about street protests to achieve this.

The company said it found 32 "fake" accounts on Facebook and Instagram, which it said it removed because they were involved in "coordinated" and "inauthentic" political behavior.

Facebook said that the urgency of the upcoming rally prompted them to publicize the information, even though it is in the early stages of an investigation.

Facebook said it uncovered coordinated activity on issues like a sequel to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in which anti-fascist protesters clashed with white nationalists, one of whom struck and killed a peaceful protester with his auto.

We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics.

"As we've told law enforcement and Congress, we still don't have firm evidence to say with certainty who's behind this effort", wrote Gleicher.

In a statement July 31, Facebook said those removed had violated company policy barring "inauthentic coordinated behavior". A previous event a year ago in Charlottesville, South Carolina, led to violence by white supremacists.

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A page called "Resisters", which interacted with an Internet Research Agency account in 2017, created an event called "No Unite the Right 2 - DC" to oppose the white nationalist gathering that is planned in Washington in August. The official declined to be named because the briefings were private.

Facebook said the suspect accounts had also run about 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram, costing a total of $11,000 (£8,300). About half had fewer than 100 accounts interested in attending.

The pages Facebook disclosed Tuesday promoted an event pegged as a counter-rally to a far-right march scheduled for next weekend in Washington. Roughly 4,700 people had registered interest in attending, though company officials couldn't say whether any of the events had actually taken place.

"I definitely had concerns, because people don't usually invite me to accounts unless they know me", Orsinger said.

Fake accounts contacted administrators of five other legitimate Facebook groups to help plan the counterprotest, including offering support for transportation and logistics, and posting ads to hire an event co-ordinator.

The size of this latest, and now shutdown, campaign is smaller than the 2016 effort - possibly because whoever was behind it was testing the waters - and Facebook noted that the perpetrators has hidden their identities by using VPNs and paying third parties to run ads.

There was plenty of reaction across social media to Facebook's decision to remove the accounts. But there are differences, too. "We may never be able to identify the source with the same level of confidence we had in naming the IRA last year". "Some of the activity is consistent with what we saw from the IRA before and after the 2016 elections". The company has expanded its security team, hiring counterterrorism experts and recruiting workers with government security clearances.

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