Facebook announced Tuesday that the company had removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram for being involved in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” – some of which related to a series of protests slated for next week in Washington DC.
As part of its disclosure, Facebookreleased a selection of the posts, ads and events created by the fake accounts. The disclosure comes just months before the 2018 miderm elections in America.
Facebook says that they are still investigating the accounts, but so far they know that the accounts posted a total of 9,500 times, paid for 150 ads (to the tune of roughly $US11,000 total), and created 30 events since May 2017.
“In total, more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages, the earliest of which was created in March 2017. The latest was created in May 2018,” the company reports. Of the largest event created through Facebook, approximately 4,700 users said they were interested in attending, and 1,400 said that they would attend.
The ads, posts and events cover a range of hot-button political issues, including the anti-fascist movement, women’s rights, and colonialism. Some were designed to stir political divisions ahead of the mid-term congressional election in November 2018, while others seem fairly innocuous.
Here are the examples of the posts that Facebook removed:
“Resisters” was one of the most-followed accounts that was removed, which posted content related to women’s empowerment, Donald Trump and other political hot-button issues. This post was created just last month, and was shared 85 times.
“These bad actors have been more careful to cover their tracks,” Facebook explained. “For example they used VPNs and internet phone services, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf. As we’ve told law enforcement and Congress, we still don’t have firm evidence to say with certainty who’s behind this effort.”
Colonialism and Native-American heritage was the focus of multiple posts included in Facebook’s sample set, most of them created by an account called “Aztlan Warriors.”
Several posts identified as part of the coordinated effort do not have a clear political bent, particularly those posted by an account called “Mindful Being,” which seems to have posted otherworldly art…
…and motivational sayings.
There were two posts in the sample set that served as a job listing for an event coordinator, like the one below.
According to Facebook, at least one page is known to have recruited real-life people to promote and coordinate attendance for “No Unite the Right 2 – DC,” which was advertised as a counter-protest to an August “Unite the Right” event in Washington.
Facebook says it will begin contacting the more than 600 users this afternoon who said they’d attend the event, along with the approximately 2,600 users who marked themselves as “interested.” It is unclear how soon everyone will be contacted.
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