Facebook confirms new social media campaign is trying to influence US midterm electionsJuly 31, 2018
Facebook is preparing to announce later today that it’s identified a new political influence campaign that has been operating on its platform with the intention of influencing the US midterm elections scheduled for November, according to a report from The New York Times. It is unclear which organization or country is behind the campaign, although The Times reports that Facebook officials who briefed lawmakers this week said Russia may potentially be involved. Facebook is expected to discuss the matter with reporters in a press briefing later today.
Facebook is said to have discovered activity designed to inflame tensions around divisive topics like the rise of white supremacy in America and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. In particular, Facebook found suspicious accounts engaging in coordinated activity around the #AbolishICE movement and a second “Unite the Right” meet-up of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, an organized protest that devolved into violence and resulted in the murder of counter-protestor Heather Heyer.
NEWS: The ongoing influence operation detected by Facebook was tentatively linked — though not conclusively — to Russian actors.
Campaign included 150 ads purchased for $11,000. Fake pages reached more than 290,000 Facebook users.
Story TK w/ @ashleyrgold
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) July 31, 2018
Following coordinated election interference from Russia’s Internet Research Agency before, during, and after the 2016 US election, Facebook has come under heavy scrutiny for how it polices its platform for fake news, propaganda, and other malicious activity committed by third-parties. The criticism has only intensified as the US heads toward the midterms, and Facebook has made an effort to prepare its products and moderation strategy for any manipulation.
The company disclosed its four-pronged attack against election interference back in March, saying it would work with the FBI and outside security experts, weed out fake accounts using artificial intelligence, increase political ad transparency, and reduce the spread of fake news by employing more human fact checkers. Facebook is also working with researchers to study social media-based election interference, with the goal of better understanding how it functions and how to stop it.
Earlier this month, on a separate call with reporters, Facebook executives declined to reveal any information about evidence related to upcoming election interference. “We know that Russians and other bad actors are going to continue to try to abuse our platform — before the midterms, probably during the midterms, after the midterms, and around other events and elections,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters during the briefing. “We are continually looking for that type of activity, and as and when we find things, which we think is inevitable, we’ll notify law enforcement, and where we can, the public.”
Last week, President Donald Trump made a stunning about-face regarding Russia election interference, a topic he has repeatedly tried to undermine publicly, by claiming on Twitter that he is now “very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election.” Trump created an international controversy earlier this month in Helsinki, Finland, when he publicly suggested he believed claims of innocence from Russia President Vladimir Putin, who was standing next to him onstage, over the the findings of US intelligence agencies, all of which unanimously agree that Russia had a hand in trying to influence the 2016 US election.
I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2018