With less than a month to go before millions vote in the US midterm elections, Facebook has removed hundreds of pages and accounts that were caught spreading misinformation. In a news post on Friday, Facebook revealed that it has taken down 559 Pages and 251 accounts “that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The social media giant also offered some details about those accounts.
Facebook says that offenders often use fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same name to share “massive amounts of content” to various Groups and Pages, directing users to their websites. This made their content appear more viral. Ad farms disguised as forums for political discussion were also part of the purge.
Facebook didn’t specify any of the accounts, Pages, or Groups that were affected by this recent eradication of rule-breakers, but The Wall Street Journal reports some of the Pages affected include Right Wing News, the Resistance, and Reverb Press (each of which were politically affiliated). Facebook says that it wasn’t the content of these Pages that got them taken down, but rather violations of behavior, detailed above.
“Topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip have been popular ways to generate clickbait,” Facebook explains. “But today, these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site.”
Facebook then went on to discuss the difference between coordination for the force of good, and coordination that could lead to your account or Page being removed from the site, and the difficulties of this process:
Of course, there are legitimate reasons that accounts and Pages coordinate with each other — it’s the bedrock of fundraising campaigns and grassroots organizations. But the difference is that these groups are upfront about who they are, and what they’re up to. As we get better at uncovering this kind of abuse, the people behind it — whether economically or politically motivated — will change their tactics to evade detection. It’s why we continue to invest heavily, including in better technology, to prevent this kind of misuse. Because people will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here.
Whether or not Facebook will be able to make a significant dent on the ad farms and fake accounts and rule-breaking Pages before November 6th remains to be seen, but at least something is finally being done.