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Facebook admits governments exploited them to spread propaganda

  • Published at 08:07 am April 28th, 2017
Facebook admits governments exploited them to spread propaganda
Facebook has publicly accepted that its platform has been exploited by governments to influence public opinion in other countries. The occasions of propagating misinformation included presidential elections in the US and France. However, Facebook authorities have pledged to clamp down on such "information operations". The company’s security team on Thursday published detailed, well-funded and subtle techniques the nations and other organisations used to circulate misleading information, reports the Guardian. The company said the information was far beyond "fake news", and included content seeding, targeted data collection and fake accounts. These attempts were used to amplify one particular view, to disseminate distrust in political institutions and spread confusion. "We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behaviour, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," said the company. Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France before the presidential election to secure the information operations this year. The company said it was a priority to remove suspect accounts with high volumes of posting activity and the biggest audiences. The company also explained about monitoring "several situations" to shape information operations during the US presidential election. The company detected "malicious actors" using social media for sharing stolen information from other sources such as email accounts "with the intent of harming the reputation of specific political targets". These techniques included creating dedicated websites to host the stolen data and then creating social media accounts and pages to direct people to the content. Meanwhile, a separate set of malicious actors created fake Facebook accounts to falsely intensify narratives and themes related to exposed topics in the stolen data. Facebook did not specify any stolen data, but we know that tens of thousands of emails were hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's Gmail account, the data was later released by Wikileaks. Facebook did not even blame any nation state for the strategy. However, the company said that its investigation "does not contradict" the findings of a January report by the US Director of National Intelligence that outlined Russian involvement in the election. Russia has also been involved in the hacking of French presidential frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron, according to a report by researchers with Japanese anti-virus firm Trend Micro, published this week. Facebook has promised on controlling the platform in order to develop ways of identifying fake accounts and to educate people at risk about keeping their information safe. The company also said they will support civil society programs around media literacy. "We recognise that, in today's information environment, social media plays a sizable role in facilitating communications – not only in times of civic events, such as elections, but in everyday expression," said the report. "In some circumstances, however, we recognise that the risk of malicious actors seeking to use Facebook to mislead people or otherwise promote inauthentic communications can be higher."
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