Facebook Uncovers Misinformation Campaign Ahead of Midterm Election

Facebook announced Tuesday that the company had uncovered up to 32 pages, profiles and Instagram accounts that had violated their ban on coordinated "inauthentic behavior" ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. 

According to a news release from Facebook, the accounts were removed once they concluded their initial investigation and shared the information they found with the appropriate legal authorities, including Congress and law enforcement. More than 9,500 organic posts were created by the troll accounts on Facebook with one piece of content appearing on Instagram. 

In its announcement, the online social media giant said they had not been able to confirm whether Russia was involved with the newly banned accounts. In 2016, troll accounts set up by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) were accused of attempting to interfere in the presidential election. 

We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this. But we are sharing what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week. We will update this post with more details when we have them, or if the facts we have change.

According to Facebook, the intended disinformation campaign was a sophisticated one. 

It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past. We believe this could be partly due to changes we’ve made over the last year to make this kind of abuse much harder. 

Facebook says the eight Pages, 17 profiles, and seven Instagram accounts were identified by their security team as being "inauthentic." Like the 2016 election, the accounts and pages were focused on divisive social and political issues including abolishing ICE, and a second attempt at a "Unite the Right" rally in Washington D.C.

The fake accounts spent up to $11,000 running 150 ads that promoted the divisive posts to voters across the U.S. The last ad created by the troll farm was in June 2018 according to the release. 

The investigation comes as the company deals with the fallout over multiple scandals on how it handles user's private data and their effort to fight hate speech and "fake news" spread on the platform. 

Photo: Getty Images

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