Russia

Report: Facebook Withheld Some Information From Their Latest Interference Report

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Facebook came forward yesterday to report that they had detected another network of fake accounts waging a 2016-style influence campaign, but the company reportedly deleted some of the content from those accounts before reporting them to Congress and the public.

We don't know exactly why they withheld some of the pages from the public record, but NBC News was able to review some of the pages through internet archives and found that they focused on racial tension.

NBC News was able to retrieve some of the pages Facebook deleted via a web archive search, which allows people to see internet pages that have been deleted. A review of some of the deleted pages from groups identified by Facebook as part of the “inauthentic coordinated behavior” found efforts to target people based on liberal politics as well as Hispanic and African heritage.

One deleted post called for protesters to occupy the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Posted by a group called “Resisters,” an event that was initially titled “Stop Ripping Families Apart! DC,” was later retitled “Stop Ripping Families Apart! Take over ICE HQ” after Facebook users said they would attend. A total of 131 people later marked themselves as having attended the June 27 rally outside of ICE’s Washington offices.

Facebook privately told members of Congress they did not know if anyone actually attended any of the events created by the fake accounts, but this tells us some people at least reported that they attended an event.

I wanted to take a moment to highlight this specific case because Russian agents making a point to boost calls for abolishing ICE does not mean abolishing or reforming the agency is a bad idea.

What it really means is you shouldn't wed yourself so closely to a specific set of words, a slogan, or a specific phrase with absolute meaning. The overwhelming majority of people would tell you our immigration policy needs to be completely overhauled, but asking people to take a purity test by repeating a set of magic words opens the door to bad actors who would hijack those words for their own purposes.

Cult of personality is dangerous even if it's a liberal cult.

  • mnpollio

    Sorry – but I have never been so happy to have never gotten involved in Facebook as I have been recently. Isn’t this ridiculous platform’s (and Mark Zuckerberg’s) 15 minutes up yet? Cut the cord from Facebook already. If you want friends, get real ones not virtual ones. Your number of FB friends is completely irrelevant so far I am concerned. You want to talk to your friends? Write a letter, send an e-mail or pick up the damn telephone. Trust me – it may be old school, but it is a lot more satisfying than typing out a couple of lines into the ether and having faceless people express hollow support/concern/surprise/”love” as the situation warrants. Plus, Zuckerberg’s apologies and concern over the corruption of FB by foreign agents and trolls go beyond half-hearted to being out-and-out lazy. Is there anyone who believes that this guy loses any sleep over this? He may lose sleep over the loss of stock value, but he does not give a damn about how his “baby” has perverted democracy and allowed trolls free reign.

  • muselet

    (a) I’d have been surprised if Facebook hadn’t withheld information from Congress and the public. Transparent is something Facebook has never been.

    (b) “[E]fforts to target people based on liberal politics as well as Hispanic and African heritage” pretty much means Donald Trump’s legendary 400-pound guy sitting on his bed (who just happens to be an FSB—or GRU—employee named Ivan who weighs 70 kilograms soaking wet and lives in a suburb of Moscow) is shit-stirring yet again.

    (c) Facebook sure looks like it’s running scared. Why not call out the people trolling on the company’s platform? Would doing so irritate the Right enough to abandon Facebook?

    Beyond the travails of Facebook, I agree that clinging to a slogan is counterproductive. Let other people fixate on conjuring words.

    –alopecia

  • Badgerite

    FFFFFF Facebook. I am thinking of opening a Facebook page called I Hate Facebook. All of the posts would be about hating Facebook and how utterly phony the corporate ‘mission’ is. Not unusual in corporate America. But these are not the people I want literally filtering my news flow.