With the midterm elections less than a month away, Facebook is taking down hundreds of domestic accounts for spreading political disinformation.
After being found to have consistently broken Facebook’s rules against spam and coordinated “inauthentic” behavior, the social giant is removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts.
Although curbing such content has become a routine practice for Facebook, the company is elaborating on this latest bust, given its proximity to the coming elections.
“Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites,” according to Nathaniel Gleicher and Oscar Rodriguez, head of cybersecurity policy and a product manager at Facebook.
“Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was,” they note in a new blog post. “Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking they were forums for legitimate political debate.”
Rather than applaud Facebook for its policing of inauthentic activity, critics say the tech titan should simply be running a more secure platform.
“Early voting is already happening in some states, and Election Day is a few weeks away, so it’s especially inexcusable that Facebook is only now deleting political disinformation pages,” according to Angelo Carusone, president, Media Matters, a nonprofit media watchdog.
“Facebook has long been aware of the presence and activities of these pages, but did nothing until the company sensed a potential public relations disaster," Carusone stated. "Reporters started working on stories about right-wing networks intentionally promoting misinformation through their operation of these pages.”
“It’s yet another example that Facebook is not prepared to proactively meet the challenges of abuse and misinformation on its platform,” Carusone added.
More broadly, Facebook is aware that accounts and Pages coordinate for legitimate reasons. In this case, however, these groups were not upfront about who they were or their motives.
The bulk of the inauthentic activity that Facebook sees on its platform is spam, the makers of which are financially motivated. As Gleicher and Rodriguez warned: “The people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves.”
Among other policing efforts, Facebook is trying to give political professionals the tools to safeguard their own campaigns.
Just last month, the company began giving candidates for federal or statewide office -- along with staff members and representatives from their political party committees -- additional security protections to protect their Pages and accounts.