Facebook uncovers political influence campaign ahead of U.S. midterm polls

039;Hilarious & paranoid': Lavrov laughs at idea that Russia uses memes to destroy US democracy

039;Hilarious & paranoid': Lavrov laughs at idea that Russia uses memes to destroy US democracy

Russian Federation was found to have used Facebook to meddle in the 2016 United States presidential election - notably through a troll farm called the Internet Research Agency - but Facebook is not explicitly linking the new efforts to Russian Federation.

The social media giant said late on July 31 that it could not connect the efforts directly to Russia or to the midterm elections, which are less than 100 days away, but legislators briefed by Facebook said the methodology used by the perpetrators pointed to Russian involvement. It says the latest attempt to launder charged political messages on the platform is much more sophisticated than previous interference.

In a blog post from the head of Facebook's cybersecurity policy, the company says that those accounts were "involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior" but that their investigation had not yielded definitive information about who was behind the effort.

It said it was in the "very early" stages of the investigation and did not yet know who was behind the pages.

The intelligence panel is planning to hold a hearing in early September with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and an executive from Google. It called the entities behind the pages "determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics".

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, in a statement urged Facebook to move against foreign groups trying to sway American voters and to warn legitimate users that such activity, as seen in 2016, is recurring this year. A previous event past year in Charlottesville, South Carolina, led to violence by white supremacists.

That may not sound like a lot, but as the New York Times points out, more than 290,000 accounts "followed at least one of the suspect pages". The official declined to be named because the briefings were private.

It said that the websites sought to "promote divisions and set Americans against one another", and used "language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation, as well as an overwhelming focus on polarizing issues".

They paid for around 150 advertisements, at a total cost of $11,000, some of which also ran on Instagram. Facebook said that the people behind the accounts went to greater lengths to hide their identities than in past influence campaigns.

In briefings on Capitol Hill, Facebook has told lawmakers that it suspects a Russian group is behind more than 30 pages advocating U.S. political stances, according to a congressional source briefed on the matter. The largest had approximately 4,700 accounts interested in attending, and 1,400 users said that they would attend.

One fake page called "Resisters" was involved in coordinating a protest in Washington D.C. on August 10-12.

"We removed all of them this morning once we'd completed our initial investigation and shared the information with USA law enforcement agencies, Congress, other technology companies, and the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, a research organization that helps us identify and analyze abuse on Facebook", the statement continued. The pages and accounts were connected to protests planned in Washington next week, Facebook said.

With the 2018 mid-terms barely three months away, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his company's crackdown.

He cautioned, "But there are differences, too".

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