News Brief

Facebook Uncovers Campaign to Disrupt 2018 US Election

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it has uncovered a coordinated influence campaign on its website to disrupt the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. The discovery follows unnerving revelations first reported by The Daily Beast that US politicians have been targeted for cyberattacks, including Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator in a tight re-election race.

Facebook found 32 troll accounts and organizations on their network that shared striking similarities with those that were caught during Russian efforts in 2016 to influence the presidential election. In response, the company has shut down the pages of eight organizations and 17 fake profiles. In combination, they had nearly 300,000 followers.

This most recent campaign on Facebook closely mirrors the divisive strategies of other known attempts to disrupt American domestic politics, in particular the techniques of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization associated with the Kremlin that has been charged with interference in the 2016 presidential election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 individuals in February linked to the Internet Research Agency.

Facebook officials said the company has identified accounts posing as liberal organizations that sought to organize anti-Trump, anti-ICE, and anti-right rallies over the coming months. They even succeeded in interacting with actual leftist organizations in putting together these events, many of which were dismayed by these recent findings.

What’s most concerning, according to the Daily Beast, is the growing sophistication of trolls and others engaged in election disruption who are increasingly able to shield their locations and use third parties to purchase ads in Canadian or U.S. dollars. And Facebook’s corrective actions against a coordinated and highly automated disruption campaign will do little to mollify critics who point to the danger of false, inflammatory, or misleading information created or amplified by individual social media users, many of whom live in the countries they are trying to influence with false narratives.