Facebook will announce on Tuesday afternoon that it has identified a "coordinated political influence campaign," comprised of "dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November's miderm elections," reports the New York Times, citing three people briefed on the matter.
While they aren't sure it's those pesky Russians, company officials told lawmakers that it might be.
In a series of briefings on Capitol Hill this week, the company told lawmakers that it detected the influence campaign as part of its investigations into election interference. It has been unable to tie the accounts to Russia, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russia was possibly involved, according to two of the officials. -New York Times
Facebook says it discovered "coordinated activity" promoting politically charged issues such as "Abolish ICE," championed by Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as an upcoming sequel to last year's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Times notes that the efforts echo those in 2016 to stoke racial tensions surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
And according to Bloomberg, the social media giant removed a whopping 32 such accounts today, saving countless Americans from having their thoughts manipulated.
In February, following the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and two businesses for election meddling (one of which has shown up in US court to fight), Facebook VP of advertising, Rob Goldman pointed out that the majority of advertising purchased by Russians on Facebook occurred after the election - and was designed to "sow discord and divide Americans", something which Americans have been quite adept at doing on their own ever since the Fed decided to unleash a record class, wealth, income divide by keeping capital markets artificially afloat at any cost.
Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 US election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.— Rob Goldman (@robjective) February 17, 2018
The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election. https://t.co/2dL8Kh0hof— Rob Goldman (@robjective) February 17, 2018
And while Goldman was smited by his tech overlords and forced to retract his claim that swaying the election was *not* the main goal, President Trump happily used it to his advantage.
The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman! https://t.co/XGC7ynZwYJ— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2018
Facebook's army of arbiters
In order to combat the "discord" allegedly sewn by Russians, most of which happened after the election, Facebook has hired a fleet of people to review content, added to its security team, hired counterterrorism experts and recruited workers with government security clearances.
They're also employing artificial intelligence to detect automated accounts and suspicious election-related activity.
It has also tried to make it harder for Russian-style influence campaigns to use covert Facebook ads to sway public opinion, by requiring political advertisers in the United States to register with a domestic mailing address and by making all political ads visible in a public database. -New York Times
Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, Nathanial Gleicher, would not say whether they have found evidence of new Russian information campaigns.
“We know that Russians and other bad actors are going to continue to try to abuse our platform — before the midterms, probably during the midterms, after the midterms, and around other events and elections,” Mr. Gleicher said. “We are continually looking for that type of activity, and as and when we find things, which we think is inevitable, we’ll notify law enforcement, and where we can, the public.”
“We think it’s inevitable that we will find evidence, and we will find other actors, whether these are from Russia, from other countries, or domestic actors that are looking to continue to try and abuse the platform,” Mr. Gleicher said.
In short, Facebook and other social media platforms are under tremendous pressure from lawmakers and their political comrades to ensure that evil foreign actors don't influence hearts and minds in the upcoming midterms. Of course, it would be a shame if the free flow of genuine opinions was somehow destroyed in the process.