Sat, 17 Nov 2018
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Suspicious behavior blamed as Facebook blocks 115 accounts

By Sheetal Sukhija, Los Angeles News
07 Nov 2018, 00:06 GMT+10

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - On the eve of the U.S. Midterm polls, Facebook has announced that it has blocked over 100 user accounts over suspicious behaviour. 

According to a blog post by the company, 115 accounts were blocked based on tip-offs from U.S. authorities and over behaviour possibly linked to a foreign entity. 

According to Facebook, some 30 accounts on its platform and 85 others on Instagram were blocked after the social networking site received a police warning that the accounts might be linked to "foreign entities" trying to interfere in the polls.

Incidentally, the Facebook blog post was published shortly after U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies issued a statement saying that Americans should be wary of Russian attempts to spread fake news.

In the blog post, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher wrote, "On Sunday evening, US law enforcement contacted us about online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe may be linked to foreign entities. We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail."

According to Gleicher, so far, the investigation has identified around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that appeared to be engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour."

The Facebook official further wrote in the blog that all the Facebook pages associated with the accounts appeared to be in French or Russian.

Gleicher added that the Instagram accounts were mostly in English, with some "focused on celebrities, others political debate."

He wrote, "Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly. But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the US, we wanted to let people know about the action we've taken and the facts as we know them today."

Last week, Oxford Internet Institute researchers said in a study that misinformation on social media was spreading at a greater rate than during the run-up to the 2016 presidential vote.

The alleged Russian online propaganda campaign in favour of the U.S. President Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential election is still subject of a federal investigation in the U.S. 

According to the researchers, "junk news" is spreading at a greater rate than in 2016 on social media ahead of the U.S. congressional election despite an aggressive crackdown by social media firms.

Over the weekend, Twitter revealed that it had it had deleted a "series of accounts" that were involved in a campaign to spread disinformation. 

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