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article imageFacebook reveals suspected $100k Russian misinformation campaign

By James Walker     Sep 7, 2017 in Technology
Facebook says it has found evidence that Russian-funded groups spent over $100,000 on ads over the past two years. The ads posted views on controversial issues, such as immigration and equality. The activity continued into the 2016 presidential campaign.
Writing in a news post today, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said its safety teams and automated AI systems have been reviewing suspect activity on its platform. In the wake of the claims about Russian interference in the U.S. election, Facebook said it has unearthed "inauthentic" activity on its site that points back to Russia.
"Amplifying divisive messages"
According to the company, the "vast majority" of the ads did not specifically target election candidates or voting. Instead, they focused on "amplifying divisive social and political messages." The topics were focused around sensitive concerns such as race issues, immigration, LGBT rights and gun laws.
The company stopped short of stating a definite link between the 470 inauthentic accounts and Russia. It said there appears to be a "connection" between the $100,000 ad spending and the country. It has shut down all the pages it identified and reported its suspicions to the relevant U.S. authorities.
Facebook's review has searched broadly for signs of a link between purchased ads and Russian actors. It included "very weak" connections, such as ads being bought from U.S.-based accounts with the language set to Russian. The company wanted to ascertain the overall impact of the Russian-linked ad buying, even if some of the accounts assessed weren't directly involved in an organised campaign.
Artificial intelligence aids authenticity
Facebook said its increasing use of automated technology is allowing it to more accurately detect fake accounts, misinformation campaigns and fake news on its platform. Today, the company revealed it's working on a tool that will automatically detect inauthentic accounts at the time they're created. This will stop them signing up in the first place, helping to keep inauthentic activity away from the News Feed.
As misinformation campaigns become commonplace online, AI is becoming the technology of choice to safeguard digital platforms. Facebook's systems have evolved significantly over the past several months. Since finding itself under attack from all sides after the 2016 U.S. election, it's dramatically stepped up its fight against fake news. The company is now banning Pages from its ad network if they repeatedly post false stories. It's also penalising clickbait authors and emphasising the authenticity of stories to users.
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Facebook said it's continuing to develop new technology so it can more quickly identify misinformation campaigns. Recognising that some people will be concerned by today's revelation, the company insisted it's remaining "vigilant" and is actively policing its platform against misuse.
"We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform," said Facebook. "We believe in protecting the integrity of civic discourse, and require advertisers on our platform to follow both our policies and all applicable laws. We also care deeply about the authenticity of the connections people make on the platform."
More about Facebook, Misinformation, Social media, Ai, Artificial intelligence
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