Facebook has released a new threat report stating that Russia is the main source of foreign influence campaigns, and that the company has removed more than 150 shady disinformation groups in the past five years.
The US topped the list of the countries most often targeted by deceptive foreign influence operations through Facebook between 2017 and 2020, the report said on Wednesday.
The UK is second on the list of targets with foreign influence, along with Ukraine.
In addition to foreign operations, Facebook is tracking a disturbing increase in domestic influence operations originating in the same country they target.
A Facebook threat report analyzed more than 150 coordinated inauthentic networks identified and removed by Facebook since 2017, seen in the map and timeline above
Facebook said Russia, followed by Iran, topped the list for foreign sources of coordinated inauthentic behavior
Russian President Vladimir Putin has always denied his government is involved in online disinformation campaigns to influence US voters
For example, during the 2020 presidential campaign, domestic campaigns from the United States itself were one of the main sources of “ coordinated non-authentic behavioral networks, ” Facebook said.
One such American network was run by Rally Forge, a marketing company whose clients include the conservative youth group Turning Point USA, according to Facebook.
Facebook said Russia, followed by Iran, topped the list for foreign sources of coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting US voters.
The numbers were based on the number of “ coordinated inauthentic behavioral ” networks removed by Facebook, a term it uses for a kind of influencing operation that relies on fake accounts to deceive users and manipulate the public debate for strategic purposes.
Facebook began cracking down on these influence operations after 2016, when US intelligence concluded that Russia was using the platform as part of a cyber influence campaign aimed at helping former President Donald Trump win the White House, a claim Moscow has denied.
Facebook said about half of the influence operations it has removed around the world since 2017 have been conducted by domestic, not foreign, networks.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can be seen above. The numbers in the report were based on the number of ‘coordinated inauthentic behavioral’ networks removed by Facebook
The US was the top target for foreign influence, with the UK in second place
‘I [influence operations] really started as a top sport. Specifically, we had a small group of nation-states applying these techniques. But more and more we see more people getting involved, ”Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, told reporters during a conference call.
Facebook said the domestic influence operations targeting the United States were carried out by conspiratorial or marginal political actors, public relations or consultancies, and media websites.
Myanmar, which recently underwent a military coup, was targeted by the most domestic inauthentic networks according to Facebook’s census, although these networks were relatively small in size.
Gleicher said threat actors had moved from large, high-volume campaigns to smaller and more targeted campaigns, and that the platform also saw an increase in commercial influence operations.
‘I actually think that most of what we see here are not actors motivated by politics. In terms of volume, a lot of these are actors motivated by money, ”he said.
“They are scammers, they are fraudsters, they are PR or marketing companies who want to do business around deception.”
Domestic influence networks have grown over time and tactics are more advanced
Facebook researchers also said fraudulent influence campaigns have evolved to become more sophisticated and difficult to detect, employing real people both knowingly and ignorantly. to blur the lines between authentic domestic discourse and manipulation. ‘
“In the future, as more domestic campaigns push the boundaries of enforcement across platforms, we should expect policy calls to become more difficult,” the company warned.
The report included more than 150 coordinated inauthentic networks identified and removed by Facebook since 2017.
“Influence operations are not new, but they have broken out into the global public consciousness in recent years,” the report said.
“These campaigns seek to undermine trust in societal institutions and corrupt public debate by using the same digital tools that have diversified the online public square and enabled critical discussions from Me Too to the Black Lives Matter movements.”