Facebook and Twitter have deactivated hundreds of fake accounts and social media pages in an effort to prevent the spread of fake news just ahead of midterm elections in the United States.
652 Accounts Deactivated
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Tuesday that his company is cracking on misinformation campaigns by banning groups and pages which promote misleading political behavior.
So far, the social networking site has deactivated 652 accounts, groups and pages which had links to Iran and Russia and the crackdown continues as more political pages emerge just ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.
According to Facebook’s statement, the pages linked to Iran have been spreading misinformation not just in the United States but also in Lain America, United Kingdom and the Middle East. A popular group called ‘Liberty Front Press’ had suspicious involvement from accounts that were originating from Iran.
The coordinated misinformation campaigns originating from Iran included accounts both on Instagram and Facebook. The 254 Facebook pages and 116 Instagram accounts had over 1 million followers in total.
The owners of the pages had relied heavily in advertisements to promote their content. According to Facebook’s statement, a total of $12,000 was spent on marketing effort by these pages during the period between 2012 and 2017.
After the 2016 presidential elections, Facebook admitted that Russian groups had orchestrated large-scale misinformation campaigns to influence the results. To prevent the incident from repeating, social media companies including Twitter and Facebook are struggling to keep their platforms safe before the upcoming elections.
War Against Fake News
Zuckerberg assured Facebook users that his company is doing everything in its power to prevent the spread of fake news. With the identification and deactivation of suspicious pages and groups, the social networking site is safer than ever. He told reporters that investigators will continue to find and eradicate malicious groups before the November elections.
Twitter also announced similar development on its social media platform after it deleted over 284 accounts linked with misinformation campaigns. According to the website, most of the ‘coordinated manipulation’ was originating from Iran. Twitter is currently working with law enforcement agencies to identify the severity of the situation.
The recent crackdown shows the aggressive attempt by foreign entities to gain influence in political conversations around the world. Facebook’s move came after Microsoft announced that it had shut down websites run by Russian military intelligence which could have potentially hacked personal information on U.S. politicians.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced the effort on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters in which he gave details on action taken against foreign actors engaging in ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior’ to mislead other users about their identities and intentions. The popular political page, Liberty Front Press, originally claimed to an independent media organization, but upon investigation, it was discovered that it had close ties with Iranian state media and affiliated network called Press TV.
Tip From FireEye
Facebook was first tipped about suspicious activity on its website by FireEye, a cybersecurity firm which has uncovered a number of malicious actors beyond Russia who continue to use social media as a tool to promote their own political narratives. Analyst Lee Foster says that some of the Iranian social media accounts have switched to left-leaning identities in an effort to have a stronger influence on U.S. political discourse.
Some of the deactivated Facebook groups had ties with Russian primary military intelligence group called GRU. GRU came under scrutiny last month after 12 of its members were indicted by Special counsel Robert Mueller for orchestrating a hacking attempt on the Democratic Party before the 2016 elections.
While most of the groups targeted by social media companies in the latest crackdown belonged to Iran and Russia, Facebook said that the two countries weren’t working together. While the main focus of Russian groups was to target Syrian and Ukrainian politics, Iranian groups focused more on upcoming U.S. elections.
Facebook’s thorough investigation led to the discovery that the Liberty Front Press’ IP addresses and website registrations had a strong link to Iranian state media. Most of the pages under Liberty Front Press were created in 2013, while other suspicious pages dated back to 2011.
What are your thoughts on Facebook’s strict stance on fake news and misinformation campaigns?