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Facebook Confirms Political Manipulation

Report. ‘Information Operations’ are actions taken by organized actors to distort political sentiment, most frequently to achieve a strategic and/or geopolitical outcome. These operations can use a combination of methods, such as false news, disinformation, or networks of  fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion.

Those are the words in a Facebook-report on how Facebook has been used to manipulate citizens. The report lists following abuses:

False News. News articles that purport to be factual, but which contain intentional misstatements  of fact with the intention to arouse passions, attract viewership, or deceive.
False Amplifiers are fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion. That is “coordinated activity by inauthentic accounts with the intent of manipulating  political discussion” (e.g., by discouraging specific parties from participating in discussion, or amplifying sensationalistic voices over others).
Disinformation. Inaccurate or manipulated information/content that is spread intentionally.
What is Facebook doing

  • Providing a set of customizable  security and privacy features, including multiple options  for two -factor authentication and in- product marketing to encourage adoption ;
  • Notifications to specific people if the y have been targeted by sophisticated attackers, with  custom recommendations depending on the threat model;
  • Proactive notifications to people who have yet to be targeted, but whom we believe may  be at risk based on the behavior of particular malicious actors;
  • In some cases, direct communication with likely targets;
  • Where appropriate, working directly with government bodies responsible for election  protections to notify and educate people who may be at greater risk.

False amplifier accounts manifest differently around the globe and  even within regions. In some instances dedicated, professional groups attempt to influence political  opinions on social media with large numbers of sparsely populated fake accounts that are used to  share and engage with content at high volumes. In other cases, the networks may involve behavior  by a smaller number of carefully curated accounts that exhibit authentic characteristics with well-developed online personas.

Russia was behind Trump
During the 2016 US Presidential election season, Facebook says that information was stolen from systems and services outside Facebook, that fake personas and pages were created to amplify specific news accounts and direct people that the false news got organic reach.  But, says the report, “the reach of known operations during the US election of 2016 was statistically very small compared to overall engagement on political issues.”

The Facebook report does not contradict a report from the US National Intelligence Office from January saying:
Putin Ordered Campaign To Influence US Election We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence  campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential  election, the consistent goals of which were to  undermine public faith in the US democratic  process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her  electability and potential presidency.  We further  assess Putin and the Russian Government  developed a clear preference for President-elect  Trump.  When it appeared to Moscow that  Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.

The Facebook report does not mention the highly critisized real-name policy, where Facebook once shot down accounts made by real people using a pseudonym – a practise that has been stopped and are used by many Facebook users. The report only talk of fake accounts as a systematic problem.