Facebook just axed a bunch of “bad actors” meant to influence the U.S. election

The company torched 32 bad actor accounts and pages from Facebook and Instagram on Tuesday.
July 31, 2018, 7:47pm

Facebook has taken down dozens of “inauthentic accounts” and pages it says were behaving similarly to the Russian troll farm that targeted the 2016 election, including one page that was in the process of organizing a political protest in D.C. next week.

The company torched 32 accounts and pages it called "bad actors" from Facebook and Instagram on Tuesday. It says it has not identified the account owners and can’t prove the activity was related to Russia — but did note whoever was behind it did a better job this time.

“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 in a news release Tuesday. New techniques included the use of VPNs and paying third parties to run ads.

Even so, there were still some links to Russia. According to Facebook, activity around one of the pages, called “Resisters,” revealed a coordinated effort by “inauthentic users” to organize an August protest against the Unite the Right rally in D.C. The event has since been disabled, and Facebook said all 2,600 users who indicated they were “interested” in the event will be notified of what happened. More than 600 users had already RSVP’ed “yes.”

A prior event hosted by that page had been shared by a now-disabled IRA account. The page also listed an IRA account as one of its administrators for seven minutes, according to Facebook.

“Some of the accounts and pages had been connected with known IRA accounts at some point,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said during a conference call with reporters.

Facebook execs also told lawmakers during a briefing this week that Russia was “possibly involved,” the New York Times reported.

Facebook says the top pages, including “Resisters,” “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” and “Mindful Being,” and a number of smaller pages with negligible audiences, were followed by nearly 300,000 accounts. Together, they spent $11,000 on 150 advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, authored more than 9,500 organic posts, and created at least 30 events since May 2017.

Cover image: Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images.