Facebook Culls Hundreds Of US-based Spam, Fake News Accounts

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Facebook is deleting hundreds of American accounts and pages for “inauthentic activity”

Facebook continues its campaign against outside forces using its platform to spread spam, misinformation and fake news.

The social network has announced a new purge and that it would remove 559 pages and 251 accounts because of spam and “sensational political content.”

In August both Twitter and Facebook removed hundreds of accounts they said were being used to spread fake news. Those accounts were thought to be linked to both Iran and Russia.

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American accounts

And Facebook this week has disabled dozens of accounts and profiles belonging to Russian database provider SocialDataHub. According to Reuters, the reason was the unauthorised collection of user information.

But now in a new twist Facebook in a blog post has also revealed another purge against US-based accounts.

According to Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, Facebook is seeing the bulk of the inauthentic activity is actually spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics.

This spam usually includes fraudulent products such as fake sunglasses or weight loss “remedies.”

“But a lot of the spam we see today is different,” wrote Gleicher. “The people behind it create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names. They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms.”

But also some outside forces are also using topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip to generate clickbait.

And increasingly Facebook is seeing these networks use sensational political content (regardless of its political slant)– to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site.

Facebook said these “news” stories or opinions are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate.

“This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behaviour – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove,” wrote Gleicher.

“Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” he said. “Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites.”

“Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was,” he added. “Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”

Gleicher said this undermines the social network, as “people will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here.”

Fake news

The August purge of Russian and Iranian accounts comes after Facebook also deleted over a hundred accounts linked to a Russian news farm, known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in April this year.

The IRA has been accused by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller of trying to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.

Both Twitter and Facebook have also recently appeared before the US congress over the spread of misinformation.

Last month both Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, answered questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of an inquiry into the use of internet platforms by foreign countries to attempt to influence election results.

The inquiry comes ahead of US midterm elections this year.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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