Face­book blocks 115 ac­counts for US poll

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE -

FACE­BOOK on Mon­day said it blocked some 30 ac­counts on its plat­form and 85 more on In­sta­gram af­ter po­lice warned they may be linked to “for­eign en­ti­ties” try­ing to in­ter­fere in Tues­day’s US midterm elec­tion.

The an­nounce­ment came shortly af­ter US law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies said that Amer­i­cans should be wary of Rus­sian at­tempts to spread fake news.

A study pub­lished last week found that mis­in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia was spread­ing at a greater rate than dur­ing the run-up to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial vote, which Rus­sia is ac­cused of ma­nip­u­lat­ing through a vast pro­pa­ganda cam­paign in favour of Don­ald Trump, the even­tual win­ner.

“On Sun­day evening, US law en­force­ment con­tacted us about on­line ac­tiv­ity that they re­cently dis­cov­ered and which they be­lieve may be linked to for­eign en­ti­ties,” Face­book head of cy­ber­se­cu­rity pol­icy Nathaniel Gle­icher said in a blog post.

“We im­me­di­ately blocked these ac­counts and are now in­ves­ti­gat­ing them in more de­tail.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion so far iden­ti­fied around 30 Face­book ac­counts and 85 In­sta­gram ac­counts that ap­peared to be en­gaged in “co­or­di­nated in­au­then­tic be­hav­iour,” Gle­icher said.

He added that all the Face­book pages as­so­ci­ated

with the ac­counts ap­peared to be in French or Rus­sian.

The In­sta­gram ac­counts were mostly in English, with some “fo­cused on celebri­ties, oth­ers po­lit­i­cal de­bate.”

“Typ­i­cally, we would be fur­ther along with our anal­y­sis be­fore an­nounc­ing any­thing pub­licly,” Gle­icher said.

“But given that we are only one day away from im­por­tant elec­tions in the US, we wanted to let peo­ple know about the ac­tion we’ve taken and the facts as we know them to­day.”

De­spite an ag­gres­sive crack­down by so­cial me­dia firms, so-called junk news is spread­ing at a greater rate than in 2016 on so­cial me­dia ahead of Tues­day’s US con­gres­sional elec­tion, Ox­ford In­ter­net In­sti­tute re­searchers said in a study pub­lished on Thursday.

Twit­ter on Satur­day said that it had deleted a “se­ries of ac­counts” that at­tempted to share dis­in­for­ma­tion. It gave no number.

Face­book last month said it took down ac­counts linked to an Ira­nian ef­fort to in­flu­ence US and Bri­tish pol­i­tics with mes­sages about charged top­ics such as im­mi­gra­tion and race re­la­tions.

The so­cial net­work iden­ti­fied 82 pages, groups and ac­counts that orig­i­nated in Iran and vi­o­lated pol­icy on co­or­di­nated “in­au­then­tic” be­hav­iour.

‘War room’

Gle­icher sa id at t he t i me t he r e w a s ov e r l a p w i t h ac­counts ta ken down ear­lier t his yea r a nd l i nked to Iran ia n st ate me­dia, but t he iden­tit y of the cul­prits has yet to be de­ter­mined.

Posts on the ac­counts or pages, which in­cluded some hosted by Face­book-owned In­sta­gram, fo­cused mostly on “sow­ing dis­cord” via strongly di­vi­sive is­sues rather than par­tic­u­lar can­di­dates or cam­paigns.

Sam­ple posts shared in­cluded in­flam­ma­tory com­men­tary about US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and the con­tro­versy around freshly ap­pointed US Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh.

Ma­jor on­line so­cial plat­forms have been un­der in­tense pres­sure to avoid be­ing used by “bad ac­tors” out to sway out­comes by pub­lish­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion and en­rag­ing vot­ers.

Face­book opened a “wa r room” at its Menlo Park head­quar­ters in Cal­i­for­nia weeks ago to be a ner ve cent re for the fight against mis­in­for­ma­tion and ma­nip­u­la­tion of the largest so­cia l net work by for­eig n ac­tors t r y i ng to i nf lu­ence elec­tions in the US and else­where.

The war room is part of stepped up se­cu­rity an­nounced by Face­book, which will be adding some 20,000 em­ploy­ees.

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