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Facebook delete fake accounts that mimic Russian tactics ahead of US midterm election

The social-media giant announced yesterday it removed 32 pages and accounts from its main Facebook service and Instagram after noticing “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”.

The move comes in order to prevent meddling in the upcoming US mid-term elections in November, and it has been reported that the removed accounts could be linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian-based group with ties to the Kremlin.

Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation

The individuals behind these accounts, Facebook reported, would have paid a total of $11,000 (roughly £ 8,400) to run 150 ads, and used virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide their real locations.

“At this point we don’t have enough technical evidence to state definitively who is behind this,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, “but they have shown similar activity and have connected with known IRA accounts.”

Despite the social-media giant not accusing Russia directly, Mark Warner, Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it was clearly the work of the Kremlin: “Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation, and I am glad that Facebook is taking some steps to pinpoint and address this activity,” he said in a statement.

He added that Facebook and other tech giants “should continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy”.

Followed by more than 290,000 accounts overall, the pages had published already 9,500 posts since March 2017 and organised 30 real-world events, including an upcoming protest scheduled for Aug. 10-12 named “No Unite the Right 2 – DC.” The event would have been counter-protesting a “Unite the Right” event in Washington scheduled for the same time, Facebook said.

“Security isn’t a problem you ever completely solve”, said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in a post, “we face sophisticated and well-funded adversaries, including nation-states, that are always evolving and trying new attacks. But we’re learning and improving quickly too, and we’re investing heavily to keep people safe.”

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