Facebook takes down suspected Russian network of pages

Facebook says it uncovered new meddling before 2018 U.S. elections

Facebook published on a company blog some examples of the posts it removed.

One fake page called "Resisters" was involved in coordinating a protest in Washington D.C. on August 10-12. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.).

Trump later amended that, saying he was "very concerned" about Russian interference in the election.

Facebook identified influence activity around at least two issues, including a counter-protest to a "Unite the Right II" rally set next week in Washington.

The size of this latest, and now shutdown, campaign is smaller than the 2016 effort - possibly because whoever was behind it was testing the waters - and Facebook noted that the perpetrators has hidden their identities by using VPNs and paying third parties to run ads.

The dates for 30 other events created by the banned users had already passed, but the company said it was not yet in a position to give color on the content.

Only a handful of pages had any significant number of followers, but in total, 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages, all of which were made since 2017.

Facebook turned its attention to these pages because their activity was awfully similar to those pages run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian company that was found to be a "troll factory" past year.

"We have found evidence of connections between these accounts and previously identified IRA accounts, but we don't believe the evidence is strong enough at this time to make public attribution to the IRA", Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos said during a conference call with reporters.

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Facebook has been grappling with continuing public backlash for being slow to recognise Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election, along with widespread concerns over its past data-sharing practices.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment early this year revealed that Russia-backed actors coordinated and staged offline events-including one where Americans were hired to build a cage atop a flatbed truck with someone in a Hillary Clinton costume to promote the idea that she should be imprisoned.

Some of those fake accounts included pages like "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters".

The accounts even went so far as to post events for real-life protests, often in response to other protests. The latest was created in May 2018.

Facebook said it uncovered coordinated activity on issues like a sequel to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in which anti-fascist protesters clashed with white nationalists, one of whom struck and killed a peaceful protester with his vehicle.

"Any attempt to interfere in our elections is an affront to our democracy and it will not be allowed", Pence said at a cybersecurity summit in NY late on July 31.

The company added that the perpetrators have been "more careful to cover their tracks" than in 2016, in part because of steps Facebook has taken to prevent abuse over the past year.

Facebook discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Facebook says the pages ran about 150 ads for $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in United States and Canadian dollars. "I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activities and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future".

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