Facebook removes thousands of fake accounts in crackdown

Facebook says it has removed 2,632 fake accounts, pages and groups as part of a crackdown on propaganda and spam. Some have been linked to Russia, Iran, Macedonia and Kosovo.

Facebook said the accounts were discovered as part of an ongoing effort to monitor “inauthentic behavior” following an investigation into content linked to Iran.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, in a statement. “We’re taking down these pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

Issie Lapowsky, senior writer for WIRED, told CBSN some of the accounts, which were also found on Instagram, were “run of the mill” spamming. But other accounts were promoting the political agendas of countries around the world. In Iran, that included an anti-sanctions, pro-Palestine message. In Russia, accounts appeared to spread information about Ukrainian politics.

“In Macedonia, we saw some of the accounts that were spreading things like astrology, celebrity information. What we know about Macedonia is that during the 2016 election, it was a hotbed for fake news. A lot of these people were just young people trying to make a buck online,” Lapowsky said.

Facebook has struggled to tackle the spread of misinformation, which has sometimes played a role in deadly conflicts. Last year, the company said an independent report found it hadn’t done enough to stop hate speech that fueled violence in Myanmar. The CBSN Originals documentary, “Weaponizing Social Media: The Rohingya Crisis,” looked at the role Facebook played in that humanitarian crisis. Many members of the country’s Buddhist majority perpetuated the false narrative of the Rohingya minority as illegal immigrants and even accused them of burning down their own villages. (You can watch the documentary at the bottom of this page.)

In response, Facebook has added moderators around the world. But Lapowsky said this latest batch of fake accounts shows bad actors are undeterred. In some cases, the pages have stayed up for years.

“Facebook is patting itself on the back saying, well, we’re getting better and better at spotting this stuff, we’re taking it down quicker,” Lapowsky said. “But even if Facebook spots it on a Monday and takes it down on a Tuesday, if it was out for six years already, the damage is done.”

Weaponizing Social Media: The Rohingya Crisis

Categories: Technology, US & World News

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