Facebook eliminates 32 accounts accused of election interference

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Those numbers may sound small, but their influence is spreading: More than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the suspect pages, the company said. They were paid for in American and Canadian dollars.

The dates for 30 other events created by the banned users had already passed, but the company said it was not yet in a position to give color on the content.

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"At this point in our investigation, we do not have enough technical evidence to state definitively who is behind this", said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy. Admins for the page connected with the admins of five legitimate pages to promote the event and post logistical information for protesters.

Except Facebook says this counter-protest was organized not by actual concerned citizens, but by inauthentic "bad actors" whose main goal was probably to sow discord and undermine American politics. The company has been working with the FBI to investigate the activity.

The social network founded by Mark Zuckerberg found itself at the center of controversy during the 2016 presidential election for the use of its platform to disseminate hoaxes and fake news. The event was called "No Unite the Right 2 - DC", seemingly billing itself as a counter-protest against the deadly far-right protests in Charlottesville one year ago.

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Almost 300,000 people followed at least one of the deleted accounts, Facebook said, and hundreds of thousands expressed interest in some 30 political events the sites were promoting. Roughly 4,700 people had registered interest in attending, though company officials couldn't say whether any of the events had actually taken place. The other was the #AbolishICE social media campaign aimed at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The Black Lives Matter movement was likewise abused by Russian actors in 2016. But he said that Democrats, not his fellow Republicans, would be the ones targeted.

That effort had generated some support, with Facebook saying "we disabled the event earlier today", and that it would now set about "informing the approximately 2,600 users interested in the event, and the more than 600 users who'd said they'd attend, about what happened". Facebook and other social-media networks have been criticised by legislators for failing to recognise and take steps to stop those efforts. It also said some of the pages' behavior was "consistent" with what it saw from Russia's Internet Research Agency before and after the 2016 election. After being caught flat-footed by the IRA's efforts ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has expanded its security team, hired counterterrorism experts and recruited workers with government security clearances.

A spokesman for Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Facebook had informed his office that "that a limited group of Russian actors has attempted to spread disinformation using its platform and that the affected groups are affiliated with the political left".

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

It's worth noting that Senator Mark Warner, a ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement immediately following Facebook's disclosure that outright blames this new coordinated network of misinformation on Russian Federation and the Kremlin.