Facebook has disclosed the discovery of new accounts engaging in “inauthentic behavior,” according to newly released statements from the company. These accounts were present on both the Facebook and Instagram platforms, the oldest dating to early 2017 and the newest to May 2018. Facebook, which says it is still in the early stages of its investigation, explains that one page had more than 290,000 followers, and that the Pages collectively produced more than 9,500 organic posts.
This is the latest instance of a political influencing campaign; it appears to be a deliberate effort to stir up issues, particularly social ones, ahead of the upcoming November midterm elections. Facebook discovered the accounts a couple weeks ago, but hasn’t yet tied them to a particular entity.
“It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency has in the past,” Facebook said. The company goes on to say that it has made connections between these accounts and planned protests scheduled to happen in Washington next week.
In addition to its general disclosure, Facebook has provided more precise details from its investigation, including that these accounts spent about $11,000 on around 150 ads that were run on Instagram and Facebook. As well, the accounts created around 30 events starting in May 2017, with the latest having around 4,700 accounts marked as maybe attending and another 1400 definitely attending.
The company cites 8 Pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and 7 Instagram accounts. The Pages with the most followers included “Black Elevation,” “Aztlan Warriors,” “Resisters,” and “Mindful Being.”
Following its previous IRA disclosures, Facebook implemented measures to address these sorts of abuse, which has resulted in the new campaigners taking methods to avoid detection. Third-parties were paid to take out the advertisements, for example, and VPNs were used for the accounts. “We still don’t have firm evidence to say with certainty who’s behind this effort,” says Facebook.
Sample content released by Facebook shows the fake accounts stirring up matters on both the political right and left, as well as race-based tensions and similar topics. Facebook says it is still gathering data on the matter.