Facebook strives to improve its cybersecurity ahead of the 2020 US presidential election.
Nathaniel Gleichery, head of Cybersecurity Policy for Facebook, on Monday posted on the company’s Newsrooom page that it has removed coordinated inauthentic behavior from Iran and Russia. This includes pages and groups that seek to disrupt political elections as well as false and anti-Israel information.
Stating that Facebook is “constantly working to detect and stop” those who use its services in order to manipulate users, the company said that the fake accounts were created with the intent to misrepresent their true purpose.
“Today, we removed four separate networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram,” read the statement. “Three of them originated in Iran and one in Russia, and they targeted a number of different regions of the world: the US, North Africa and Latin America.”
The report said that 93 Facebook accounts, 17 pages and four Instagram accounts, originating in Iran, have been closed. The social media giant has informed law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners of its findings.
“The Page admins and account owners typically posted about local political news and geopolitics including topics like public figures in the US, politics in the US and Israel, support of Palestine and conflict in Yemen,” according to Facebook’s statement.
It added screenshots of some of the offensive and false posts, including anti-Israel, anti-IDF and anti-US messages.
Also removed were 38 Facebook accounts, six pages, four groups and 10 Instagram accounts that originated in Iran and focused on countries in Latin America, including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico, Gleicher said.
“The Page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as locals, used fake accounts to post in Groups and manage Pages posing as news organizations, as well as directed traffic to off-platform domains,” according to Gleicher. “They frequently repurposed Iranian state media stories on topics like Hezbollah, conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, tensions between Israel and Palestine and Iran and the US, war in Yemen,” he explained.
The company also “removed 50 Instagram accounts and one account on Facebook that originated in Russia and focused primarily on the US. This campaign showed some links to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and had the hallmarks of a well-resourced operation that took consistent operational security steps to conceal their identity and location,” according to the statement.
Much of Facebook’s efforts to remove false accounts is to help fight 2020 US presidential election interference that is claimed to have occured in the 2016 presidential election. It will now require that news from state-owned media be clearly labeled.
Russia, Iran and China Interference
“We do see today Russia and Iran and China increasingly with more sophisticated tactics are trying to interfere in elections,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told NBC Nightly News in an interview that aired Monday. “But part of why I’m confident going into 2020 is that we’ve played a role in defending against interference in every major election around the world since 2016, in France, in Germany, in the E.U. overall, in India, in Mexico, in Brazil.”
Although Facebook says it is making progress in removing abuse from its platform, it is an ongoing challenge, the company acknowledges.
“We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working closer with law enforcement, security experts and other companies,” Facebook said.