Facebook removes 32 fake accounts involved in political influence campaign

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"Today we removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior", the company said.

Only a handful of pages had any significant number of followers, but in total, 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages, all of which were made since 2017.

The company is unable to tie these accounts to Russian Federation, though the New York Times reports that Facebook officials have privately confided to lawmakers that Russian Federation was probably involved. Warner expressed "pretty high confidence" that Russian Federation was behind the assault.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said in a statement there would be a hearing on Wednesday about the online threat to U.S. election security. "The Russians want a weak America".

During his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki earlier this month, Trump appeared to state that he believed Russia was no longer trying to influence the USA election process.

While top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer applauded Facebook's action, he said the Trump administration itself "is not doing close to enough" to protect elections. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the statement, Facebook first discovered the pages and profiles about two weeks ago and removed them Tuesday morning after completing an initial investigation.

Some accounts had connections to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) - the Russian-based group that interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

The investigation is at an early stage, revealed now because one of the pages being covertly operated was orchestrating a real-world counter-protest to a "Unite the Right" event in Washington, DC, on August 10.

However, some users were not so impressed as many said they believed shutting down two dozen accounts would barely make a dent in combatting the spread of fake news. A previous event past year in Charlottesville, South Carolina, led to violence by white supremacists.

It is also placing political ads into a public database (which, of course, you must login to see) and claims to be using both artificial intelligence and human reviewers to identify unusual or suspicious coordinated campaigning behavior.

The Silicon Valley darling will never stop being a target for those who wish to manipulate people.

The examples Facebook provided Tuesday of erased content did not support or attack any specific elected officials or parties.

The company added that the perpetrators have been "more careful to cover their tracks" than in 2016, in part because of steps Facebook has taken to prevent abuse over the past year.

Facebook has not yet officially attributed these fake accounts and pages to the IRA or the Russian government, like in 2016.

Having been publicly embarrassed and then excoriated for its failure to identify a massive misinformation campaign last time around, Facebook has expanded its security team, hiring several serious counterterrorism experts, and introduced new rules included the requirement for political advertisers to register with a U.S. addresses.

However, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement tying the latest Facebook activity directly to Russian Federation. "Foreign bad actors are using the exact same playbook they used in 2016", he said. They are "dividing us along political and ideological lines, to the detriment of our cherished democratic system".

"The relationship between malicious actors and real-world sponsors can be hard to determine in practice, especially for the activity sponsored by nation-states, " Facebook's Chief Security Officer, Alex Stamos said.

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