Yesterday, Facebook shared the findings and takedowns of its last week’s investigation regarding inauthentic coordinated behavior. In order to accomplish these takedowns, they worked closely with the government, the security community, and other tech companies.
Inauthentic coordinated behavior refers to people or organizations working together to create networks of accounts and Pages to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing.
What are the findings of Facebook’s investigation?
On November 4th, just a few days before the US mid-term elections, Facebook was informed by the US law enforcement about an online activity that they believed was linked to foreign entities. Facebook further investigated and found that around 30 Facebook accounts and 84 Instagram accounts were potentially engaged in an coordinated inauthentic behavior. Facebook in its Election Update said that most of the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts were in French or Russian languages:
“Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate.”
Combined with the takedowns of last Monday, in total, they have managed to remove 36 Facebook accounts, 6 Pages, and 99 Instagram accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior. These accounts were predominantly created after mid-2017 and have an impressive number of followers:
“We found a total of about 1.25 million people who followed at least one of these Instagram accounts, with just over 600,000 located in the US. By comparison, the recent set of accounts that we removed which originated from Iran had around 1 million followers.”
On November 6, a website claiming to be associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-based troll farm, published a list of Instagram accounts they said that they’d created. Facebook said that they have now blocked these accounts.
To give the background on how they are mitigating the misuse of the platform, Facebook mentioned that they partner with external partners like the government or security experts. These partnerships have helped Facebook, especially in the lead-up to last week’s midterm elections. Nathaniel Gleicher, the Head of Cybersecurity Policy, said in his post:
“And while we can remove accounts and Pages and prohibit bad actors from using Facebook, governments have additional tools to deter or punish abuse. That’s why we’re actively engaged with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, including their Foreign Influence Task Force, Secretaries of State across the US — as well as other government and law enforcement agencies around the world — on our efforts to detect and stop information operations, including those that target elections.”
Though removing misleading pages and accounts is a right step towards making the platform free from fake news and preventing its involvement in elections, this could also result in the takedown of legitimate accounts. “Facebook took down the pages of a lot of legit people I know and follow,” said one of the Hacker News users.
Head over to Facebook’s newsroom to stay updated on Facebook’s activities to mitigate its misuse.