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Facebook Removes Fake Accounts Influencing World Politics

Facebook recently deleted 32 Pages and accounts attempting to influence the US mid-term elections

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Facebook
Facebook commits $300 mn to support local news. Pixabay

Facebook has removed 652 fake accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” that originated in Iran and Russia and targeted people across multiple Internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, Britain and the US.

According to Facebook, some of the fake Pages, groups and accounts originated in Iran and some in Russia.

“We’re still investigating, and we have shared what we know with the US and UK governments. Since there are US sanctions involving Iran, we’ve also briefed the US Treasury and State Departments,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said in a statement on Tuesday.

These sanctions allow companies to provide people Internet services for personal communications, including the government and its affiliates.

“But Facebook takes steps to prevent people in Iran and other sanctioned countries from using our ad tools,” said Gleicher.

Facebook
Facebook, social media. Pixabay

Facebook also removed Pages, groups and accounts that can be linked to sources the US government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services.

“While these are some of the same bad actors we removed for cybersecurity attacks before the 2016 US election, this more recent activity focused on politics in Syria and Ukraine,” Facebook said.

For example, these accounts are associated with Inside Syria Media Centre, which the Atlantic Council and other organisations have identified for covertly spreading pro-Russian and pro-Assad content.

“We’re working closely with US law enforcement on this investigation, and we appreciate their help. These investigations are ongoing – and given the sensitivity we aren’t sharing more information about what we removed,” Facebook added.

Facebook acted on these accounts after FireEye, a global cybersecurity firm, gave it information in July about “Liberty Front Press”, a network of Facebook Pages as well as accounts on other online services.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

Based on FireEye’s tip, Facebook started an investigation into “Liberty Front Press” and identified additional accounts and Pages from their network.

“We are able to link this network to Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same admins,” Facebook informed.

The first “Liberty Front Press” accounts were created in 2013. Some of these attempted to conceal their location, and primarily posted political content focused on the Middle East, as well as the UK, US, and Latin America.

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Beginning in 2017, they increased their focus on the UK and US.

Accounts and Pages linked to “Liberty Front Press” typically posed as news and civil society organisations sharing information in multiple countries without revealing their true identity, said Facebook.

Facebook recently deleted 32 Pages and accounts attempting to influence the US mid-term elections. (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook To Invest $300Mn In Local News Partnerships, Programs

The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model."

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Facebook, dating
Facebook owned photo-messaging app Instagram already supports the "Unsend" capability VOA

Facebook says it is investing $300 million over the next three years in local news programs, partnerships and other initiatives.

The money will go toward reporting grants for local newsrooms, expanding Facebook’s program to help local newsrooms with subscription business models and investing in nonprofits aimed at supporting local news.

The move comes at a difficult time for the news industry, which is facing falling profits and print readership. Facebook, like Google, has also been partly blamed for the ongoing decline in newspapers’ share of advertising dollars as people and advertisers have moved online.

Facebook, Fake News
A user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. Facebook has made changes to fight false information, including de-emphasizing proven false stories in people’s feeds so others are less likely to see them. VOA

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of global news partnerships, acknowledges the company “can’t uninvent the internet,” but says it wants to work with publishers to help them succeed on and off the social network.

“The industry is going through a massive transition that has been underway for a long time,” she said. “None of us have quite figured out ultimately what the future of journalism is going to look like but we want to be part of helping find a solution.”

Facebook has increased its focus on local news in the past year after starting off 2018 with the announcement that it was generally de-emphasizing news stories and videos in people’s feeds on the social network in favor of posts from their friends.

At the same time, though, the company has been cautiously testing out ways to boost local news stories users are interested in and initiatives to support the broader industry. It launched a feature called “Today In” that shows people local news and information , including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements, expanding it to hundreds of cities around the U.S. and a few in Australia.

Facebook, social media
Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this illustration. VOA

The push to support local news comes as Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, California, tries to shake off its reputation as a hotbed for misinformation and elections-meddling. The company says users have been asking to see more local content that is relevant to them, including news stories as well as community information such as road closings during a snowstorm.

The $300 million investment includes a $5 million grant to the nonprofit Pulitzer Center to launch “Bringing Stories Home,” a fund that will provide local U.S. newsrooms with reporting grants to support coverage of local issues. There’s also a $2 million investment in Report for America as part of a partnership aiming to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms across the country over the next five years.

The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model. Facebook can’t be the only answer, the only solution — we don’t want the publisher to be dependent on Facebook.”

Also Read: Democratic Lawmakers Further Investigate Russia’s Involvement In U.S. Election

Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, which is receiving $1 million together with the Local Media Association to help their member newsrooms develop new revenue streams, said she is optimistic the investment will help.

“I think they are recognizing that trusted, credible content is of benefit not only to local publishers but to them,” she said. (VOA)