Facebook says identified 'political influence campaign' ahead of United States midterm elections

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Facebook said Tuesday it had shut down more than 30 fake pages and accounts involved in what appeared to be "sophisticated" attempts to sway public opinion on political issues ahead of November midterm elections, but can not identify the source.

The announcement is Facebook's first acknowledgement of potential meddling ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S. in November.

"About two weeks ago we identified the first of eight pages and 17 profiles on Facebook, as well as seven Instagram accounts, that violate our ban on coordinated inauthentic behaviour", said in a statement published by Facebook Tuesday afternoon.

In its latest investigation, which is ongoing, Facebook said it did not know whether the influence campaign was being coordinated by Russia, but it did confirm that at least one of the now-defunct pages briefly had an administrator linked to a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

A man who identified himself as an administrator of Resisters, Washington activist Brendan Orsinger, said on a video call with Reuters that he had been invited to help operate the page by someone he knew only through Facebook messages. Warner expressed "pretty high confidence" that Russian Federation was behind the assault. Republican Senator Richard Burr applauded the action against disinformation campaigns. "The Russians want a weak America".

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence vowed to protect the upcoming elections from such foreign interference.

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"This is an absolute attack on our democracy", said Virginia Sen.

It said the "bad actor" accounts on the world's biggest social network and its photo-sharing site Instagram could not directly be tied to Russian actors, who USA officials say used the platform to spread disinformation ahead of the 2016 presidential election in the United States.

They also used third parties to publish paid advertisements on Facebook, in violation of the social-media firm's policies banning foreign entities from buying United States political ads.

"It's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past", Facebook said. The canceled event was called "No Unite the Right 2".

A counterprotest touted by the Resisters site was planned for next week at a Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C.

However, some users were not so impressed as many said they believed shutting down two dozen accounts would barely make a dent in combatting the spread of fake news. A previous event past year in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to violence by white supremacists.

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The Silicon Valley darling will never stop being a target for those who wish to manipulate people.

In its statement, Facebook showed one of the fake pages it identified to be promoting a left-wing rally in the hopes of attracting participants, offline. The people or organizations that ran those accounts spent $11,000 (in both U.S. and Canadian) on 150 separate ads so that the pages would attract even more followers.

The "Resisters" Page also created a Facebook Event for a protest on August 10 to 12 and enlisted support from real people.

Facebook said that the banned accounts and pages were more sophisticated in covering their tracks than previously-suspended pages that have been linked to Russian Federation.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said that the activity bore some similarities to that of the Internet Research Agency, but that the actors had better disguised their efforts, using VPNs, internet phone services and third parties to purchase ads for them. "And we've found evidence of some connections between these accounts and IRA accounts we disabled a year ago". Ben Sasse said. "Russia and China understand that successful information operations don't create new problems but exploit existing fissures - that's why Moscow is working to divide Americans by stoking both sides of almost every culture war".

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