They covered their tracks, using software to camouflage their internet traffic. They created Facebook pages for anti-Trump culture warriors, Hispanic activists and fans of alternative medicine. And they organized protests in coordination with real-world political groups. The people behind an influence campaign ahead of this year’s elections, which Facebook disclosed on Tuesday, copied enough of the tactics used by Russians in the 2016 races to raise suspicion that Russia was at it again. But the new efforts also revealed signs of a maturing adversary, adapting and evolving to better disguise itself, while also better imitating real activists. The coordinated activity — a collection of memes, photos and posts on issues like feminist empowerment, indigenous rights and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — show the enormity of the challenge ahead of Facebook, as it tries to weed out impersonators. As the forces behind the accounts become harder to detect, the company is left to separate the ordinary rants and raves of legitimate users from coordinated, possibly state-backed attempts to sway public opinion.
National: Facebook Identifies an Active Political Influence Campaign Using Fake Accounts | The New York Times
Facebook said on Tuesday that it had identified a political influence campaign that was potentially built to disrupt the midterm elections, with the company detecting and removing 32 pages and fake accounts that had engaged in activity around divisive social issues. The company did not definitively link the campaign to Russia. But Facebook officials said some of the tools and techniques used by the accounts were similar to those used by the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-linked group that was at the center of an indictment this year alleging interference in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook said it had discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Activity was also detected around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign on social media that seeks to end the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Australia: Cyber security experts warn Australia not immune from election meddling via Facebook | ABC
Facebook’s latest move to shut down accounts involved in interference in the US democratic process has prompted concern about possible election meddling in Australia. A former cyber security expert with the US State Department today issued a stark warning to Australians: we are not immune to the threat. Black Elevation, Mindful Being and Resisters are the names of just a few Facebook pages that had thousands of followers Facebook said were possibly linked to Russia, and involved in co-ordinated, inauthentic behaviour.
It’s official: President Trump is the single biggest political advertiser on Facebook. Mr. Trump and his political action committee spent $274,000 on ads on the social network since early May, outpacing the second-biggest spender, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood spent just over $188,000 on Facebook ads over the same period. The ads bought by Mr. Trump and his PAC were also seen the most by Facebook’s users, having been viewed by at least 37 million people since May. That compared with 24 million people who saw the second-most viewed group of political ads, which were also from Planned Parenthood.
It’s more bad news for Facebook. The social networking giant faces a fine of a half a million pounds in Britain for failing to protect people’s online data connected to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a report published by the country’s privacy watchdog on Wednesday. The financial penalty would represent the first levy worldwide against the tech giant for its role in the alleged abuse. As part of an ongoing investigation into the use of data by political groups, Elizabeth Denham, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner, or ICO, said Facebook broke the country’s data protection rules by making users’ information available to a third-party app linked to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm. Facebook also was not transparent about how people’s digital information would then be used by these companies, particularly in relation to political campaigns.
National: Inside Facebook and Twitter’s secret meetings with Trump aides and conservative leaders who say tech is biased | The Washington Post
Twitter and Facebook are scrambling to assuage conservative leaders who have sounded alarms — and sought to rile voters — with accusations that the country’s tech giants are censoring right-leaning posts, tweets and news. From secret dinners with conservative media elite to private meetings with the Republican National Committee, the new outreach reflects tech giants’ delicate task: satisfying a party in power while defending online platforms against attacks that threaten to undermine the public’s trust in the Web. The complaints have come from the upper echelons of the GOP, including top aides to President Trump, arguably the world’s most prominent Twitter user. The chief executives of Facebook and Twitter, meanwhile, have both admitted in recent months that Silicon Valley’s ranks are dominated by liberals, which has only fed accusations of bias from the right.
A soft-spoken parliamentarian, it’s easy to overlook Fatma Benli in a busy cafe until she starts recalling the disinformation campaign that nearly derailed her election bid two years ago. The small room we’re in begins to shudder as the sitting MP for the ruling AK Party passionately explains that she could have lost because of fake news and online narratives. “There was fake news circulating on every major social media platform,” the 44-year-old told Al Jazeera, reeling off a litany of examples where she and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were repeatedly attacked in spurious social media posts. “Facebook, Twitter, it came from all sides.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sued Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), saying the companies failed to maintain information about political advertising as required by state law. Washington law requires the companies to maintain information about buyers of political ads, the cost, how they pay for it and the candidate or ballot measure at issue, according to the lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The companies also must make that information available to the public upon request. Ferguson said neither Facebook nor Google did so, even though Washington candidates and political committees have spent nearly $5 million to advertise on those platforms in the past decade.
California: Facebook Tried to Rein In Fake Ads. It Fell Short in a California Race. | The New York Times
Regina Bateson had just finished an Easter egg hunt with her children on April 1 when her phone started buzzing. Take a look at Facebook, messages from her friends and colleagues urged. Ms. Bateson, a Democrat running for Congress in the California primary on Tuesday, quickly opened up the social network. There, she saw what appeared to be a news article that painted her as underhandedly trying to torpedo the campaign of a rival Democratic candidate. When Ms. Bateson clicked through the article, she was directed to a Facebook page run by Sierra Nevada Revolution, a local progressive group she had clashed with in the past. The article was not a news story, she found, but a political ad paid for by Sierra Nevada Revolution. And while Facebook rolled out new rules on April 6 mandating that campaign ads be clearly labeled and say who had purchased them, Sierra Nevada Revolution’s ad about Ms. Bateson continued to be targeted to local voters throughout that month without any of those disclosures.
Online social network Facebook is allegedly planning to deploy its controversial “I’m a voter” button in Switzerland ahead of parliamentary elections next year. The Swiss authorities have not been officially informed by the US company, according to Swiss media reports. Republikexternal link, a Swiss online news magazine, on Wednesday quoted a report in the Schweiz am Wochenendeexternal link newspaper last month that Anika Geisel, manager of Facebook’s politics and government outreach team in Berlin, had met 20 politicians from all parties in Zurich on April 11. “The topic of the meeting was how candidates could benefit from Facebook’s campaign tools. It was intended as a promotional event for the technology company,” Republik.ch wrote. “One participant asked a question that had nothing to do with the marketing tools. Would Facebook be deploying its well-known ‘I’m a voter’ button in Switzerland? Yes, Geisel answered, the company was working on it.”