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Facebook derails deception campaign ahead of US election

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Oct 28, 2020 - 07:09 AM

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook on Tuesday said it derailed a fledgling deception campaign aimed at the US that was trying to gain momentum ahead of the presidential election next week.

The effort orchestrated from Mexico posted in English and Spanish on topics including racial injustice; feminism and the environment, using a small bit of content posted in the past by the Russian Internet Research Agency.

Facebook did not link the campaign to Russia, saying it had so far only traced control to unspecified people in Mexico.

The network began creating accounts in April, hiding identities and intent of those involved, according to Facebook head of security integrity Nathaniel Gleicher.

It had only grown to two Facebook Pages and 22 Instagram accounts, according to Facebook.

Those managing accounts or pages used in the “coordinate inauthentic behavior” campaign claimed to work for what appears to be a fictitious Polish firm.

“Some of these accounts posed as Americans supporting various social and political causes and tried to contact other people to amplify this operation’s content,” Gleicher said.

It was one of three small deception campaigns taken down today at Facebook and Instagram, according to the social network and the latest in a series of efforts by the social network to block efforts to deceptively boost a political candidate or movement.

Each of the networks had few accounts and negligible numbers of followers in what Gleicher said was a sign of Facebook’s success at catching such campaigns quicker.

Catching coordinated deceit efforts faster has triggered a shift in tactics to trying to create a false impression that interference in voting or politics is more pervasive than it actually is, according to Gleicher.

Recent tactics were said to include posing as media outlets or tricking legitimate news agencies into amplifying concerns about social ills or election security.

“We see malicious actors attempt to play on our collective expectation of wide-spread interference to create the perception that they’re more impactful than they in fact are,” Gleicher said.

“We call it perception hacking — an attempt to weaponize uncertainty to sow distrust and division.”

The tactic was used lask week when culprits in Iran spread email messages with unbacked claims of hacking into US voting systems and tried to use Facebook to do the same.

“It’s important that we all stay vigilant, but also see these campaigns for what they are – small and ineffective,” Gleicher said.

One of the campaigns taken down Tuesday was uncovered while digging into the account created to spread the bogus hacking claim.

“This small network originated in Iran and focused primarily on the US and Israel,” Gleicher said.

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