Facebook removes accounts amid fears of Russian meddling in USA midterms

039;Hilarious & paranoid': Lavrov laughs at idea that Russia uses memes to destroy US democracy

Facebook said Tuesday that it had discovered a sophisticated coordinated disinformation operation on its platform involving 32 false pages and profiles engaging in divisive messaging ahead of the USA midterm elections.

The dates for 30 other events created by the banned users had already passed, but the company said it was not yet in a position to give color on the content.

Facebook didn't provide detailed descriptions of those pages.

Facebook added more fuel to the election-meddling fire Tuesday, revealing that it discovered a network of pages and profiles engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" related to planned protests in Washington DC.

Ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections, Russian operatives created fake Facebook accounts that pushed both right- and left-wing narratives in an attempt to sow political division.

US intelligence and law enforcement officials have been warning for months that Russia's efforts to undermine USA democracy remain active and pose a threat to this year's elections.

Is Canada safe from Russian-style election hacking on Facebook?

It said that 290,000 users followed at least one of the accounts.

In total, Facebook identified 8 pages, 17 profiles, and 7 Instagram accounts involved in this suspicious behavior.

Facebook has removed the suspect accounts, but says other legitimate page administrators unwittingly interacted with them.

In addition, Russian operatives disinformation campaigns run on social media during the 2016 campaign continue to color the discussion about the platforms although evidence has repeatedly shown such efforts were minuscule in terms of spending and impact.

It said it had removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram, part of an effort to combat foreign meddling in USA elections.

In its latest investigation, which is ongoing, Facebook said it did not know whether the influence campaign was being coordinated by Russia, but it did confirm that at least one of the now-defunct pages briefly had an administrator linked to a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

The company said it had briefed USA law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, other tech firms and members of Congress on its findings. "We face sophisticated and well-funded adversaries, including nation states, that are always evolving and trying new attacks". They spent $11,000 (£8,400) on 150 Facebook and Instagram ads, the last of which was created last month.

"But we don't believe the evidence is strong enough at this time to make public attribution to the IRA", Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamps said during a conference call with reporters.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee who has exerted intense pressure on the social media companies, praised Facebook on Tuesday for bringing the activity into the public, but asked for its cooperation in updating laws to prevent influence campaigns.

"This kind of behaviour is not allowed on Facebook because we don't want people or organisations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing", the company said in a blog post. "It's an arms race and we need to constantly improve too", Facebook said. One of the fake pages-for a group called "Resisters"-created a Facebook event called "No Unite the Right 2" in Washington, D.C., to take place on August 10; it apparently coordinated with five real organizations to co-host it. Facebook canceled the event and warned the other groups what was going on".

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