On September 1st, Facebook published its “August 2020 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report.”
The detailed report can be found here [pdf].
First of all, in general, the report actually targeted more accounts from the United States and Pakistan than from Russia.
It is obvious which accounts got the most media coverage, however.
BREAKING: @Facebook took down a small, recently created network linked to “individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency.”
Based on a website;
Small % of US election content;
Low impact. https://t.co/YlInSBarHM
— Ben Nimmo (@benimmo) September 1, 2020
The tally is this:
- We removed a small network of 13 Facebook accounts and two Pages linked to individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA). This activity focused primarily on the US, UK, Algeria and Egypt, in addition to other English-speaking countries and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Internet Research Agency is the one that was indicted in allegedly attempting to influence the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States, and there still seems to be no evidence to back it up, but still it’s fact in any Western reports and MSM ones, to boot.
- We removed 55 Facebook accounts, 42 Pages and 36 Instagram accounts linked to US-based strategic communications firm CLS Strategies. This network focused primarily on Venezuela and also on Mexico and Bolivia.
Roughly 4 times more accounts, 20 times more pages, and Instagram accounts, and they’re focused on the areas where the US has a staked interest such as drug war, regime change (Venezuela) and so on.
- We removed 453 Facebook accounts, 103 Pages, 78 Groups and 107 Instagram accounts operated from Pakistan and focused on Pakistan and India.
This one is commonplace, it doesn’t really relate to the US or anything besides India and Pakistan themselves, so it doesn’t require “much attention.”
Now, in some sort of “karmic circle” it appears that the first ever network “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior” was allegedly operated by the Saint Petersburg-operated Internet Research Agency, and so was the 100th, which was removed in August 2020.
Following is the real issue why this “misinformation campaign” and its removal were significant.
The Internet Research Agency allegedly created a “fake leftwing news publication, staffed it with fake editors with AI-generated photos and hired real freelance reporters as part of a fresh influence operation detected and removed by Facebook.”
The network had 13 accounts and two pages, with about 14,000 total followers. Surely it could swing the entire election.
To make things worse, it was a left-wing campaign which didn’t support US Presidential Candidate Joe Biden – which appears to be most disturbing part.
The Facebook accounts and pages were designed to bolster PeaceData.net, an English- and Arabic-language website that claims to be a “global news organization” and all of its editor staff is made-up.
Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher said that much effort was put forward in producing these fakes, and only to apparently influence a minimal number of people.
“They put substantial effort into creating elaborate fictitious personas, trying to make fake accounts look as real as possible,” Gleicher said.
“Many of the characters had profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter said on Tuesday that it had suspended five accounts associated with PeaceData for “platform manipulation that we can reliably attribute to Russian state actors.”
Furthermore, some of its content was copied from other website, but some was produced by Freelancer, who weren’t even cheated – they were paid on time and in full.
“Another writer said he was approached via direct message on Twitter and offered $200-$250 apiece, more than he was usually paid for writing.
“I was just trying to get more bylines and get paid to do what I want to do,” he said. “I’ve interacted with editors who do far less than what they were doing, and they paid faster than some publications … I’m a freelance writer – I’m used to being taken advantage of.”
Here comes the puzzling part: PeaceData’s coverage of the US portrayed the country as “war-mongering and law-breaking abroad while being racked by racism, Covid-19, and cutthroat capitalism at home” which is quite literally, word for word, how the Black Lives Matter movement portray the United States.
The website was quite negative of US President Donald Trump, but it also had a quite hostile tone towards Joe Biden and his VP candidate Kamala Harris – which is obviously, the most worrisome point to take away.
The US-focused content of PeaceData appeared designed to “build a leftwing audience and steer it away from Biden’s campaign.”
Both Facebook and Graphika concluded that the operation had been detected and taken down before causing significant damage.
“It follows a steady pattern where particularly Russian actors have gotten better at hiding who they are, but their impact is smaller and smaller and they are getting caught earlier,” Gleicher said. “These actors are caught between a rock and hard place: run a large network that gets caught quickly or run a small network that has limited reach.”
The website itself published a statement saying that all of the reports were slander.
Regardless, what is noteworthy here is that, it evidently isn’t such a big issue that it could be a propaganda tool, but rather that the network could be a propaganda tool that goes against Joe Biden and the Democrats, even though it actually repeats and propagates the actual content that Black Lives Matter push forward.
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