Facebook removes political influence campaign in US

By Ovunc Kutlu

NEW YORK (AA) – Facebook said Tuesday it identified and removed an ongoing political influence campaign from its networks, in a move to tighten cybersecurity as midterm elections nears.

Thirty-two pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram were removed, because of their involvement in "coordinated inauthentic behavior", the company said in a statement.

"This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook because we don’t want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing," it said.

Facebook struggled to identify foreign interference in the 2016 presidential elections via fake accounts. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told CNN in March his company, which has more than 2 billion users, was "not on top of a number of issues."

The company said it is in the early stages of investigation and does not have all the facts nor the actors behind the recent political influence campaign.

"But we are sharing what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week," it said without naming who was behind the efforts.

Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, said in the statement that the firm identified the first of eight pages, 17 profiles on Facebook and seven profiles on Instagram, two weeks ago that violate the ban on coordinated inauthentic behavior.

While more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages, there were more than 9,500 organic posts created by the accounts on Facebook, according to the statement.

"They ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in U.S. and Canadian dollars," it said.

The pages created around 30 events since May 2017, while the largest had 4,700 accounts interested in attending, and 1,400 users said they would attend, it added.