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Americans are now copying Russia and making hundreds of fake Facebook accounts to influence politics (FB)

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  • Facebook has taken down 559 pages and 251 accounts that were part of coordinated campaigns to influence US politics.
  • The accounts were run by Americans, and are evidence of how malicious users in the US are increasingly copying the techniques Russian trolls used in the 2016 US election.

Americans are taking a page out of Russia's playbook.

Malicious Facebook users are creating hundreds of fake accounts and profiles in attempts to influence users politically, Facebook said in a blog post on Thursday.

The Silicon Valley social networking firm has announced a crackdown on the accounts, removing 559 pages and 251 accounts "that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behaviour." Facebook did not cite the source of these accounts, but The New York Times reports that they were run by Americans. 

"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," Facebook's head of cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher wrote.

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

According to The New York Times, the removed accounts included Right Wing News — a page that sometimes spread fake news with a right-wing slant — as well as the Resistance and Reverb Press.

The activity echoes the actions of Russia during the 2016 US election, when it attempted to influence American politics using a coordinated campaign of fake accounts that spread hoaxes and misleading information.

Facebook said it looked at the behaviour of the accounts, rather than the content posted, in its decision to ban them.

"Today, these networks increasingly 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. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the 'news' stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate," Gleicher wrote. "This is why it’s so important we look at these actors' behavior – 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."

A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for clarification on the sources of the accounts and details of the accounts themselves.



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