Facebook purges 800 political spam Pages, accounts from its platform

The move is the latest effort by the beleagured social network to combat 'fake news' and stem the spread of misinformation.

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Facebook Pages 1920In its latest salvo against misleading political spam accounts, Facebook announced Thursday that it had removed 559 Pages and 251 accounts from its platform for creating inauthentic activity motivated by profit.

Facebook removed Pages, groups and accounts that that were found to be created solely to stir up political debate from the U.S., Middle East, Russia and the U.K.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy, and product manager Oscar Rodriguez said money was the primary motivator for these accounts.

“The people behind (the spam) create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names. They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms,” Gleicher and Rodriguez said.

Why you should care

Facebook has been working to expand its AI capabilities and number of human reviewers to flag and take down political spam and fake news on its platform. These kinds of announcements indicate progress but also underscore the breadth of the challenges facing the company and other internet platforms in combating fake news — and fostering brand-safe environments for marketers.

Last month, the company introduced its latest effort to combat false political information — expanded security options for Pages that belong to US political candidates running for state and federal office, as well as staff and representatives of political party committees. It also launched a pilot program offering two-factor authentication and monitoring for potential hacks to admins that manage US political candidate pages.

This isn’t the first purge of accounts determined to be created by bad actors. The company has taken down Pages several times this summer, including a sweep of 652 pages in late August.

More about the news

  • The company says that spam 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.
  • “The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites. And they often use their fake accounts to generate fake likes and shares. This artificially inflates engagement for their inauthentic Pages and the posts they share, misleading people about their popularity and improving their ranking in News Feed. This activity goes against what people expect on Facebook, and it violates our policies against spam,” Gleicher and Rodriguez said.
  • Facebook says it looks at the pages’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than its content to decide which accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.
  • It acknowledged that there are legitimate reasons for accounts and Pages to coordinate with each other, but said that those groups are upfront about who they are, and what they plan to do.

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About the author

Robin Kurzer
Robin Kurzer started her career as a daily newspaper reporter in Milford, Connecticut. She then made her mark on the advertising and marketing world in Chicago at agencies such as Tribal DDB and Razorfish, creating award-winning work for many major brands. For the past seven years, she’s worked as a freelance writer and communications professional across a variety of business sectors.

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