Facebook removes fake accounts targeting the US ahead of elections

Facebook removes fake accounts targeting the US ahead of elections

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James Martin / CNET

Facebook shut down two networks of fake accounts for the US ahead of the presidential election, the social network said on Tuesday, adding that the campaigns were small and intercepted early.

The last takedowns from Facebook will take place after FBI said last week that Russia and Iran had received voter registration data to meddle in the upcoming elections. The social network closed the accounts because the people behind them tried to mislead others about their identity and purpose.

Facebook, which worked with the FBI, said it removed a single fake account created in October 2020 and attempted to spread unsubstantiated claims that Iranians had hacked into US electoral systems. The claims were also mainly disseminated via email. The social network also deleted 11 Facebook accounts, six Pages and 11 Instagram accounts, which were largely inactive and focused on Israel. These reports covered Saudi Arabia’s activities in the Middle East and an alleged massacre at Eurovision, Facebook said. The company said it has found some connections with people associated with the Iranian government.

Facebook also removed another network of two Facebook Pages and 22 Instagram accounts, some of which tried to impersonate American accounts. Facebook linked the activities with people from Mexico and Venezuela and published the reports on current events and hot button topics such as religion, racial relations and the environment. Some of the reports used memes published by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the infamous troll farm that interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

Nathaniel Gleicher, who oversees Facebook’s cybersecurity policy, said the company is in a different location than it was in the 2016 US election. Disinformation campaigns are caught earlier and before the election. Bad actors switch to other tactics, such as trying to get writers to write for fake media organizations.

“It is important that we all remain vigilant, but also see these campaigns for what they are, small and largely ineffective, and not for what the threat actors behind them want to see pervasive and powerful,” he said.

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