Spammers were increasingly spreading “sensational political content,” Facebook says
Facebook has removed more than 800 accounts for violating its policy against spam and “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the social network announced on Thursday, adding that the spammers were spreading “sensational political content.”
The bad actors were using “fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names” to post “massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites,” the company said in a blog post. Altogether, 559 pages and 251 accounts were taken down.
While most Facebook clickbait emphasizes “natural disasters or celebrity gossip,” fake political news has increasingly becoming an issue, Facebook cybersecurity head Nathanial Gleicher and product manager Oscar Rodriguez said in the post.
“These networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site,” Gleicher and Rodriguez added. “And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the ‘news’ stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate.”
If this sounds familiar, that’s because Facebook already kicked off hundreds of Russian and Iranian accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in August. The company removed 652 Facebook and Instagram accounts associated with “Liberty Front Press,” which it says it linked 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.” These pages primarily posted political content connected to the Middle East, the UK, U.S., and Latin America.
The latest purge comes one month before the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg — who initially shrugged off concerns the platform was manipulated by Kremlin-linked trolls during the 2016 presidential election — has made stopping the spread of fake news a top priority. Social media giants are in an “arms race” against “well-funded adversaries,” Zuckerberg wrote last month in the Washington Post. He added it’ll “take the combined forces of the U.S. private and public sectors to protect America’s democracy from outside interference.”