Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Facebook's Own Account of Covert Disinformation Operations in the Last Presidential Election

Brian T. Lynch, MSW

The following was taken from Facebook's own account of foreign intervention into the 2016 election by Russia through Facebook. It is an except I saved from a much more detailed report published by Facebook. The link to that report was embedded in the following summary until I clicked on it to make sure it still worked before posting this blog. It worked, but it disappeared when I went to publish this blog post. I checked in my history but the URL didn't register on my internet history either. I apologize for that and will try to locate the full report.  When I do I will append it hereto.


In the last election: During the 2016 US Presidential election season, we responded to several situations that we assessed to fit the pattern of information operations. We have no evidence of any Facebook accounts being compromised as part of this activity, but, nonetheless, we detected and monitored these efforts in order to protect the authentic connections that define our platform.

One aspect of this included malicious actors leveraging conventional and social media to share information stolen from other sources, such as email accounts, with the intent of harming the reputation of specific political targets. These incidents employed a relatively straightforward yet
deliberate series of actions:

• Private and/or proprietary information was accessed and stolen from systems and services (outside of Facebook);

• Dedicated sites hosting this data were registered;

• Fake personas were created on Facebook and elsewhere to point to and amplify awareness of this data;

• Social media accounts and pages were created to amplify news accounts of and direct people to the stolen data.

• From there, organic proliferation of the messaging and data through authentic peer groups and networks was inevitable.

Concurrently, a separate set of malicious actors engaged in false amplification using inauthentic Facebook accounts to push narratives and themes that reinforced or expanded on some of the topics exposed from stolen data. Facebook conducted research into overall civic engagement during this time on the platform, and determined that the reach of the content shared by false amplifiers was marginal compared to the overall volume of civic content shared during the US election.

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