Facebook has announced a major crackdown on fake accounts as the social network wages war against a “major” spam ring hiding on its service.
In a blog post, the company announced it had identified numerous “inauthentic likes and comments” on popular pages run by publishers, and is removing them.
“The apparent intent of the campaign was to deceptively gain new friend connections by liking and interacting primarily with popular publisher Pages on our platform, after which point they would send spam,” technical program manager Shabnam Shaik wrote.
“We observed that the bulk of these accounts became dormant after liking a number of Pages, suggesting they had not been mobilized yet to actually make connections and send spam to those people.”
In other words, the fake accounts are designed to pose as real people posting comments on news organisations’ stories and posts. From there, they would befriend other real commenters, add them, then bam! — hit them with spam.
The fraudulent accounts were located in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, among other countries, Facebook said, and was “sophisticated” in its attempts to evade detection: “We found that most of this activity was generated not through traditional mass account creation methods, but by more sophisticated means that try to mask the fact that the accounts are part of the same coordinated operation. They used tricks to avoid detection, including redirecting their traffic through ‘proxies’ that disguised their location.”
It’s not clear exactly how many accounts were purged. The Guardian said it saw 20,000 fake accounts that liked its pages removed — meaning the total number is at least in the tens of thousands, and may well be in the hundreds of thousands. (In its blog post Facebook said only that “99% of impacted Pages with more than 10,000 likes will see a drop of less than 3%.”)
This isn’t the only crackdown of fake accounts Facebook has conducted recently — but these accounts seem to have been spreading spam for commercial purposes, rather than political aims. Earlier this month, Facebook said it was cracking down in fake accounts in France ahead of the country’s presidential election, as part of a broad campaign against disinformation online.
It took down 30,000 apparently fake accounts in an attempt to “reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts.”
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