In a newsroom on Tuesday, Facebook revealed that it has discovered evidence of "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that is likely to affect US policy on its platform.
According to Facebook's cybersecurity chief, Policy Nathaniel Gleicher, the company first identified the activity two weeks ago. So far, the activity comprises eight Facebook pages, 17 profiles and seven accounts on Instagram. Facebook explained that the activity "violated our ban on coordinated inauthentic behavior [s]".
Facebook has refused to attribute the new findings to the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), but an IRA account was found to be a co-admin on one of the newly-adopted fake events "for just seven minutes."
Facebook has been in contact with Congress and law enforcement over the discovery, suggesting that social platforms should again expect the kind of coordinated disinformation campaigns that targeted the 201
The most popular sites that displayed this type of behavior were "Aztlan Warriors," "Black Elevation," "Mindful Being," and "Resisters." The other pages each had fewer than 10 followers and the Instagram account had no followers. This does not necessarily mean that other types of potential activities, such as comments and messages, are not taken into account.
Like the fake Russia-linked ads and pages previously published by the House and Senate, the new content reinforces American tensions around the race. The examples published by Facebook seem to be aimed primarily at the US political left. Some examples explicitly include anti-Trump content, but most offer racial identity appeals targeting black and Mexican-American Facebook users.
According to Facebook, "they've posted about 150 ads for around $ 11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid in US dollars and Canadian dollars" between April 2017 and June this year. The sites also made around 30 Facebook events.
As Gleicher writes in the post, these accounts operate more cautiously than the notorious Russian disinformation accounts for the 2016 election:
For example, they used VPNs and Internet telephone services, and paid third parties to place advertisements on their behalf , As we said to the law enforcement and the Congress, we still have no solid evidence to say for sure who is behind this effort. Part of the activity is in line with what we saw before and after the 2016 elections by the IRA. And we found evidence of some links between these accounts and the IRA accounts that we deactivated last year. But there are differences as well. For example, while IP addresses are easy to fake, the IRA accounts that we disabled last year sometimes used Russian IP addresses. We did not see them here.
However, the newly discovered wave of activity spreading polarizing political content on Facebook strongly reflects the earlier content associated with the IRA. The evidence is sufficient for Deputy Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, one of the most prominent people in the investigation of the blame for the dissemination of Russian disinformation.
"Today's revelation is further evidence that the Kremlin is spreading platforms like Facebook to divide and disinformation, and I am glad that Facebook is taking some steps to locate and address this activity," Warner said in a statement provided to TechCrunch.