Face­book blocks 115 sus­pi­cious ac­counts ahead of midterms

Daily Southtown - - NATION&WORLD - By Kelvin Chan

LON­DON — Face­book said it blocked 115 ac­counts for sus­pected “co­or­di­nated in­au­then­tic be­hav­ior” linked to for­eign groups at­tempt­ing to in­ter­fere in Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions.

The so­cial me­dia com­pany shut down 30 Face­book ac­counts and 85 In­sta­gram ac­counts and is in­ves­ti­gat­ing them in more de­tail, it said in a blog post late Mon­day.

Face­book acted af­ter be­ing tipped off Sun­day by U.S. law en­force­ment of­fi­cials. Au­thor­i­ties no­ti­fied the com­pany about re­cently dis­cov­ered on­line ac­tiv­ity “they be­lieve may be linked to for­eign en­ti­ties,” Face­book’s head of cy­ber­se­cu­rity pol­icy, Nathaniel Gle­icher, wrote in the post.

U.S. tech com­pa­nies have stepped up their work against dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, aim­ing to stymie on­line trou­ble­mak­ers’ ef­forts to di­vide vot­ers and dis­credit democ­racy. Face­book’s purge is part of coun­ter­mea­sures to prevent abuses such as those used by Rus­sian groups two years ago to sway pub­lic opin­ion ahead of the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The com­pany based in Menlo Park, Calif., has been some­what reg­u­larly dis­clos­ing such purges in re­cent months. More are likely go­ing for­ward since, even as its sys­tems get bet­ter at de­tect­ing and re­mov­ing ma­li­cious ac­counts, the bad ac­tors are sharp­en­ing their at­tacks.

Gle­icher said Face­book will pro­vide an up­date once it learns more, in­clud­ing whether the blocked ac­counts are linked to the Rus­sia-based In­ter­net Re­search Agency, or other for­eign en­ti­ties.

Al­most all of the Face­book pages as­so­ci­ated with the blocked ac­counts ap­peared to be in French or Rus­sian. The In­sta­gram ac­counts were mostly in English and were fo­cused ei­ther on celebri­ties or po­lit­i­cal de­bate. No fur­ther de­tails were given about the ac­counts or sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity.

Last month, Face­book re­moved 82 pages, ac­counts and groups tied to Iran and aimed at stir­ring up strife in the U.S. and the U.K. It car­ried out an even broader sweep in Au­gust, re­mov­ing 652 pages, groups and ac­counts linked to Rus­sia and Iran.

Twit­ter, mean­while, has said it has iden­ti­fied more than 4,600 ac­counts and 10 mil­lion tweets, mostly af­fil­i­ated with the In­ter­net Re­search Agency, which was linked to for­eign med­dling in U.S. elec­tions, in­clud­ing the pres­i­den­tial vote of 2016. The agency, a Rus­sian troll farm, has been in­dicted by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller for its ac­tions dur­ing the 2016 vote.

Face­book, Twit­ter and other com­pa­nies have been fight­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion and elec­tion med­dling on their ser­vices for the past two years. There are signs they’re mak­ing head­way, although they’re still a long way from win­ning the war.

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