back to article Facebook deletes 17 accounts, dusts off hands, beams: We've saved the 2018 elections

Facebook has deleted dozens of pages and accounts that were apparently coordinating to push divisive messages to the American public in the lead-up to this year's US midterm elections. We're told 17 profiles and eight pages in all were chopped from Facebook along with seven Instagram profiles. The social media giant said the …

  1. Grikath Silver badge

    ahhhhh....

    So the Lies and Bigger Lies are only spread through the proper Party-Controlled channels...

    "Would you like to know more?" ...

  2. bc895xlt
    Pirate

    Moron!

    Facebook is NOT a source for information!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Moron!

      It is a source of something, but what?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Moron!

      Facebook is NOT a source for information!

      It is when you don't trust the media or your source is people like Alex Jones .

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: Moron!

        I doubt I'm the only one that is annoyed with those FB ads that are all over TV at the moment. Don't we have some advertising standards bod that is responsible for removing bullshit and lies from ads?

      2. Doctor Huh?

        Re: Moron!

        Facebook is NOT a source for information!

        It is when you don't trust the media or your source is people like Alex Jones .

        Information doesn't work like that. Pizza and beer don't become health foods just because your normal diet consists of Cool Ranch Doritos by the pound,

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: Moron!

          Facebook is NOT a source for information!

          It is when you don't trust the media or your source is people like Alex Jones .

          Information doesn't work like that. Pizza and beer don't become health foods just because your normal diet consists of Cool Ranch Doritos by the pound,

          But try and convince those people that it's not. THat's why I mentioned Alex jones . Any sane person would dismiss him as a loon People see face book as a way to share the truth.Their truth The truth that the regular media is to scared to report . IE they already have a position and just looking for some thing to back them up. Facebook is not what I would considered a primary source on info . Any thing I read on face book I fact check. The more it agrees with my position the more I fact check it before I repost.

          1. John Tserkezis

            Re: Moron!

            Any thing I read on face book I fact check.

            Anything I read on face book, I dismiss immediately.

  3. macjules Silver badge

    You can trust us now.

    Facebook has deleted dozens pages and accounts that it says were coordinating to push divisive messages to the US public in the lead-up to this year's midterm elections.

    Did one of those accounts include a certain Mark Zuckerberg? I think we should be told.

  4. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Did they delete the account of Mark Zuckerberg?

    If not, they are not trying hard enough.

  5. MadonnaC

    What about the rest?

    Multiple accounts and pages deleted...

    Are they going to delete the shares? and follow the path of every share spammer out there that shared this information from here to kingdom come?

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: What about the rest?

      The shares will return their version of 404 . An account is delete and every like share goes into the dust bin

      1. wayward4now
        Linux

        Re: What about the rest?

        Is that what it takes to get Facebook to delete your account??

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: What about the rest?

        Problem is, so much crap is propagated with "don't share, copy and paste this post", and you're not going to get those. At least not without doing a massive search across the whole database, and even with the best will in the world that would be a gargantuan task.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: What about the rest?

          If they haven't calculated each post's hash it's because they don't want to. They do it with images.

    2. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      Re: What about the rest?

      They should at least log the URL and prevent anyone else linking to it.

      I had that happen when someone reported a video as being "offensive". It wasn't, unless you object to vintage pop music shows (this was from France, so it didn't have the excuse of containing gratuitous images of Jimmy Savile). But because of that, the video is blocked for all time.

      So surely they should be able to do something about that...

  6. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Not surprising when you consider their stock price just took a 20% hit to the short and curlys and seeing how Twitty's share price got smacked after they kicked off a few names. There was no way FB wanted to double up by saying yeah, we just decimated our perceived product base. They might come back in a few months or a year or price boost of >15% and say, "see what good do-bees we are, we fixed the intarwebs!" but it isn't going to happen too soon.

  7. DCFusor Silver badge

    Eduacation

    If public education (in all countries that have it) would teach critical thinking and right vs wrong, the entire batch of issues would simply go away.

    But that wouldn't fit the agendas of those who hold power and want easily fooled subject to maintain the status quo that they think benefits them the most.

    They're likely even wrong about that - what good are slaves who can't reason or produce much value?

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Eduacation

      Only what I've been saying since 1st grade when I saw what we were expected to learn, by rote if necessary. Meanwhile the world is being wired up for full on tracking and monitoring to identify who the bad slaves are out there. They could be contagious after all!

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Eduacation

        Didn't they make a documentary about all this a few years back? Oh yes, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBvIweCIgwk

        1. Claptrap314 Bronze badge

          Re: Eduacation

          Here is a much better one: https://youtu.be/YR5ApYxkU-U?t=2m22s

          "Teach right and wrong." According to whose standard? Mine or yours? Mao's?

          Government-run schools ALWAYS teach what the powers that be want taught. If you value freedom of thought, then keep your children as far away as possible.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Eduacation -Gullibles Travels

      If public education (in all countries that have it) would teach critical thinking and right vs wrong, the entire batch of issues would simply go away.

      Sounds like a fine idea, but doomed to fail. Teach people to not listen to what they want to hear?

      Slaves aren't expected to reason, just do what they're told.

  8. Mycho Silver badge

    Still not touching Facebook with a proverbial bargepole.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Yeah, my family feels like I've dropped out of the universe. They don't pick up on phone calls and I don't do Facebook anymore. Wasn't much anyway. Oh well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, my family feels like I've dropped out of the universe.

        More like you've dropped out from their tree. But that's ok, because there are more things to do in the forest other than staying in that one tree.

  9. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Devil

    Facebook Jail

    divisive messages stopped in their tracks

    ...after $11K had been collected. Sticking to the moral high ground no doubt.

  10. PhilipN Silver badge

    “push divisive messages to the US public“

    Huh? I thought that was normal electioneering?

  11. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Today's announcement is intended to send the message that Facebook is on top of the problem.

    Er, yeah. From here, it looks like they take the ad payment, let the account run for a bit and then kill it and keep the pocket change. Sort of like paying someone to guard the open bar door and then fire them after the horses are long gone. Maybe they need to lock the door first instead of taking the cash and "not seeing the problem"????

    1. Rockets

      Facebook will take advertising dollars from anyone and are completely shameless about it. If they were serious about cleaning up their platform they'd be stricter on advertisers. You can report an ad for being inappropriate with adult content or you can block the ad from your feed by marking it as a scam but not for other reasons. They are going to keep getting targeted until they clean up their advertising.

  12. PhilipN Silver badge

    How to save humanity's self-respect

    Brilliant idea - FB should freeze every single account - all of 'em - and require punters to re-register.

    I'd be surprised if they have more than a few hundred million actual users. This whole chunk of the planet supposed to be on FB is bollocks.

  13. Snake

    Hey!!

    Don't diss the Zuck! They deleted a whole 17 accounts!

    Only possibly millions more to go! Maybe by, say, 2050, they'll get this whole "fake news" thing all figured out!

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Seventeen "Patient Zero"s (was: Re: Hey!!)

      (Don't take any of the below as an apology for Facebook. They're not doing nearly enough, and they know that tackling this problem reduces their revenues, so they let it slide like the amoral pricks they are)

      I don't use Facebook anymore (for reasons below) - I'm before the three million who dumped it after the Cambridge Analytica story, but the reasons were similar: as time went on, more and more of the feed was being filled with garbage political and marketing posts, blindly forwarded by a handful of people whom I was actually friends with, so didn't want to block.

      But, if your spend any amount of time on Facebook, and you'll see that it most of the shite you see is in the form of forwarded articles, and when you dig into it, you notice that the person who forwarded it to you didn't get it from the original publishing account, but from someone they knew.

      Seventeen accounts. If 100,000 people followed those original malicious accounts (it's not clear if the followers figure was aggregate, or per account), then that's 100,000 channels for the information to reach a like-minded idiot. It's not fair to say 100,000 like-minded idiots, because a common technique is to set up a page for a popular, broadly-supported social issue, gather followers that way, and then silently change the page name and content to fit the real agenda.

      Those like-minded idiots then spam the hundred or so people who know them (the average size of a Facebook "friends" list is 100 - seach "Dunbar's Number" for a good theory of why this is so). Within that hundred, there'll be at least one more who'll inflict the same post on his or her friend-list either by commenting on it, liking it, or re-posting it. And so it goes on, until millions have at least seen the message. But the real reason why Facebook is the political activist's wet dream is that when you see the story they post, it's not labelled as "{Political pressure group} says:", but rather as "{Person you know} read this" - which many, many people blindly take as "{Person you know} believes:" Add to that Facebook's habit of auto-inserting stories from an account, simply because some friend of yours has read other stories from that account, or commented on them (even if that comment is "you are the scum of the earth"), and it's easy to see why it's the vehicle of choice for disinformation campaigns.

      (It could be worse: Facebook-owned WhatsApp doesn't even label forwards as "Forwarded by", a practice that has caused a spate of murders in India, where WhatsApp is used as a de-facto social media platform, because a series of urban myths warning about child-abductors, when forwarded around rural villages, ended up being interpreted as "I saw two strangers here this morning in a green car, who were trying to steal young boys" rather than the correct "I was sent this story about two strangers somewhere ...")

      What's second striking about these posts is that they come from a very small number of sources - few people have the spare time and inclination to write this kind of garbage. There are far more than seventeen, absolutely, but I'd say it's far less than a thousand.

      So, seventeen isn't nearly enough, but it's a lot more than it looks like.

  14. herman Silver badge
    Devil

    Wells Fargo

    What is to stop Facebook from going all Wells Fargo and create thousands of fake accounts themselves, only to delete them publicly later?

    Maybe I should suggest it to them...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next: World peace and food for all?

    Just Facebook PR.

    Nothing has changed.

  16. wayward4now
    Big Brother

    Charles Manson would be proud!!

    "to divide America by pitching citizens against immigrants, left against right, white against black, and meddle with political discourse while derailing civility."

    Helter Skelter!

    Helter Skelter!

  17. Crisp Silver badge

    Nice to know that Facebook has gotten rid of all the bad actors.

    Now I have to go. Sophie Dee has contacted me on Messenger and is asking me to buy her a an Amazon gift card.

  18. Twanky

    I really don't understand

    An organised bunch of people post divisive political opinions. Then some other people say the first lot shouldn't be allowed to comment on the politics because they are not of 'our' country... Does that mean we should not allow people to comment on the politics in Iran, North Korea, Nicaragua (etc ad nauseam) unless they can demonstrate that they live there? If so, Mr Trump should rein his neck in.

    Yes, propaganda on social media is a problem. More effort should be put into completely destroying trust in it as a source of news - instead we get 'don't trust them, trust us'.

    Why does anyone expect *any* news reporting to be unbiased? It costs money to do. Reporters, editors and the delivery medium (printing press, paper, web server, whatever) must be paid for. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Whoever is organising the lunch gets to choose the menu.

    1. Am I Consing Yet?

      Re: I really don't understand

      What you say is correct, but I wonder if people are trusting what they read in Social Media _because_ they have lost all trust in conventional news reporting. They have more trust in something that a random stranger says because they think it's a real person, not an organisation after commercial or political gain.

      That stranger on Social Media is "us" in the "them and us" equation.

      They're wrong of course; the most damaging use of Social Media is absolutely coming from organisations for commercial and political gain, but the Social Media platforms make it easy for those orgs to look like random strangers, and therefore "us". How can FB ever differentiate between "Joe Bloggs" and "Joe Bloggs posting what EvilCorp has paid him to post"? I don't have the answer.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please delete mine as well

    Thanks in advance,

    No Body

  20. Hughsey

    Shocked that Facebook now believe they have a political policing role - how do they decide what is influential (in the wrong way). A Conspiracist may say that they have just altered the course of the election to suit their own beliefs. Hmmm

    1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

      Good point.... will Facebook now delete posts made by Fox News? Most of their news is biased, fake and designed to introduce division and polarizing of opinion.

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      @ Hughsey

      Not one who downvoted you as I agree with your comment. However I dont think it is facebook who have decided to police this stuff, instead it is governments concerned that people are voting the 'wrong' way (not for them). The EU and US getting uppity that Trump was elected and people voted for brexit which of course couldnt possibly happen because the people wanted them, instead they must have been influenced by the freedom to communicate.

      "Having been publicly embarrassed and then excoriated for its failure to identify a massive misinformation campaign last time around"

      The article contained the above, and yet wasnt it shown that very little money (in comparison to the war-chests) had been spent and had little influence? I think FB should feel the embarrassment from doing the policing even if the governments are giving them little choice.

  21. Franco Silver badge

    Zuck pats himself on the back for being marginally less useless than before.

    I still can't decide what's worse, people thinking that Facebook is a valid source of news or Facebook themselves deciding that fake news isn't their problem

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      But the typical faecebook user will believe them.

      The social network created by twats for twats.

  22. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Think about it

    If I was running that campaign, I'd setup a lot of accounts with different configurations and the expectation that a number of them would be discovered so that I could observe what characteristics were giving the game away ... so will Facebook try harder now? Or will they declare that they have saved the nation and take the summer off?

    17 accounts? I'd look at what were the common factors and eliminate them from all other accounts and start creating new accounts.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The size of this latest, and now shutdown, campaign is smaller than the 2016 effort – possibly because whoever was behind it was testing the waters.

    Or because Farcebook have only identified a fraction of the campaign.

  24. Kaltern

    I wonder if the various countries where the Zuck Zervers are housed have any control over how they're used?

    I actually think that there SHOULD be a mass re-registration. On October 1st, all accounts will be frozen, requiring an email verification and a bot-defeating CAPTCHA within 48 hours before permanent deletion... and this should happen at random intervals through the year.

    Of course I'd also like to see a mandatory Twat Tax introduced, requiring you to deposit £100 to use FB, with a refund 6 months later... but then I'm not really sure who you'd pay it to..

  25. Miss Config
    FAIL

    Holocaust Denial Still On Facebook

    At least until recently Facebook was hosting Holocaust deniers.

    Are they STILL there ?

    ( I ask because I do NOT have a fb account. )

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore

    Maybe Howard Beale wasn't talking about TV.

    I've only had one Fakebook account. It's fake. There's no "me" there. It has no content. I use it to SSO multiple media sites, but if it goes away, I'll just stop going to the media sites.

    Fakebook exists -- besides the obvious manipulations of US elections -- for the lonely and inconsequential to share their progress through life with all the other lonely and inconsequential people they knew in secondary school.

    God only knows what we might accomplish if we just turned it off.

    "We deal in *illusions*, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds... We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that [Fakebook] is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever [Fakebook] tells you! You dress like [Fakebook], you eat like [Fakebook], you raise your children like [Fakebook], you even *think* like [Fakebook]! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing! *WE* are the illusion! So turn off your [Fakebook accounts]. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I'm speaking to you now! TURN THEM OFF..."

    ~~ Howard Beale in a prophetic utterance from 1976.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It also wrote glowingly about itself. "Security is not something that’s ever done..."

    I guess they were going for something like "Security is something that is ever ongoing...", but does anyone think it could just as well read as "Security is something that we never do."?

  28. adam payne Silver badge

    Today's announcement is intended to send the message that Facebook is on top of the problem.

    The announcement was intended to send that message but to me it sounds like back slapping.

  29. deltamind

    Wait so Facebook and data leak are not in the same headlines this time.

  30. Claverhouse Bronze badge

    Storm in a Tea-Cup

    If sinister Russian manipulators under the direct control of Svengalian Dread Vlad post 'I Heart Teletubbies' on Democratic party websites, and therefore gun-totin' morons in the Midwest immediately vote for Trumpertino because they hate Teletubbies, or something, the main thing is those voters exercised their votes as they decided.

    The main point of democracy is not what information was available to the voter, nor how that should be controlled or fed to him according to anyone else's beliefs, but that he made that vote according to his wishes.

    .

    Democracy is in my view a wholly ridiculous religion, and I prefer complete monarchism, but if you are going to believe in it and promote it, for God's Sake do it in truth to itself, and not to how you think people should vote.

    When it comes to America, I'm just grateful they're not setting light to people in the streets any more: squabbles over what morons post on Facebook are minor.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Storm in a Tea-Cup

      These posts - like the last ones - were mainly done to stir up divisions in the US rather than just flat out say 'vote for X'.

      C.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past,"

    They wore balaclavas in Balaclava

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Several right-wing political accounts were deleted in Brazil too.

    Problem is, they never checked if they were ALL fake news, and all the Fake News pages belonging to left-wingers were NOT erased as well.

    So, yeah, if you are deleting political fake news pages, be sure to delete, from both sides, at the same time.

    Let me rephrase that: not ALL pages were fake news, but only the right-wing ones were axed. I may be wrong, some fact-checking required, yes?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Several right-wing political accounts were deleted in Brazil too.

      Whatever 'Right' and 'Left' means, I've seen various 'Left wing' pages complaining about exactly the same thing, so I assume 'they' are axing both sides.

      We have to factor the echo-chambers in. Just because you don't hear about the other 'side' getting axed, doesn't mean it isn't happening, or that there are no complaints about it. It just means that some algorithm is precluding those stories from appearing in your feed. This is the truly insidious part of the fake news problem - and it's very much Facebook's fault, not the IRA, or the Kremlin, or Trump or any of the other scapegoats.

      And of course these sites that are getting axed, de-ranked or shadow-banned claim that they are *not* pushing fake news. As far as I can tell, many of these sites host the work of bona fide - if radical - journalists whose greatest sin is not that they are tendentious (find me a journalist that isn't!), but that their position falls anywhere outside the overton window.And the people with the axe are the ones invoking Orwell as a pretext. This is actually really disturbing.

      I think it's a mistake to apply the axe at all. At least, it's neither democratic, nor liberal to do so. A lot of the hysteria about fake news is coming directly from the mainstream media who can feel their control of the narrative slipping, as social media steals their audience, and they don't like it. That's the real story.

      Now, even if we think social media equals fake news, we have to be honest here, the mainstream media have always carried propaganda of one sort or another. The cold war alone provides thousands of examples. In liberal democracies this propaganda is usually managed by omission and misdirection, rather than the outright lies that appear in dictatorships.

      An interesting recent example is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is eagerly quoted when their reports support the establishment position (e.g. Assad's barrel bombs), but utterly ignored if their accounts contradict the official narrative (Ghouta gas scare). Is this an honest mistake, or something more sinister?

      There's also the emphasis on being first with the story, rather than being accurate with the details, that routinely compromises the mainstream news, especially the rolling '24/7' variety.

      Another major mainstream media compromise is the general tendency to construct stories almost entirely from press releases originating in PR firms and think-tanks, rather than send reporters out into the field to gather information and to fact-check. (See N. Davies' "Flat Earth News" for a thoroughly damning analysis of this mechanism).

      Most telling of all, the Mainstream Media consistently ignores the scrupulously-researched Chomsky-Herman propaganda model (see 'Manufacturing Consent') in any and all discussions of fake news. As a model, it explains very well how even a 'free press' can be set up to peddle propaganda in a liberal democracy with a free market for news. (Executive summary: "Journalists write what they like because the advertisers/proprietors like what they write"). I've never seen this model mentioned in any mainstream news channel, except perhaps on those rare occasions when the BBC interview Chomsky himself, and they never dig deep into the theory, or its relevance for how news is actually disseminated in the 'free world'.

      If the mainstream media could point to a strong record of truth-telling, mea culpas, significant retractions of their own sensational but inaccurate stories (Saddam's WMDs? Skripal? The 'Golden Shower' Dossier?), and holding power to account, then the fake news industry (apparently it's mostly clickbait, with only the most speciously demonstrated Kremlin ties) would go out of business.

      But the mainstream media can point to no such gleaming record, and the public know it. The mainstream media lie routinely. Now, for the most part, they believe their own lies, but the audiences are falling because those lies are increasingly obvious. In these days where older stories are archived and instantly available, the memories of the audience, and the supply of citizens able to spot the contradictions, are not as short as the news editors and spin doctors would prefer.

      Therefore alternative news - often labeled disingenuously as 'fake' - has an audience. Axing social media accounts will not help this issue at all. On the contrary, it directly feeds the narrative that 'they' are trying to control the media, to exclude dissenting voices.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: older stories are archived and instantly available

        Not sure if it is happening so much now, but occasionally a really old story on the Beeb would make it into the Most Read section. There was the case of someone who had died years ago and the story somehow bubbled up to the top. There were a lot of obituary style posts on social media, with people correcting them, saying that this was old news.

  33. Cincinnataroo

    The sneaky little sh**s, they rebooted a large part of humanity. Now they respond zombie like to adverts on Facebook.

    Beat the rush put an advert on Facebook.

    "Put all your money into <Fill-In-Bank-Account>."

    Get in quick before all those accounts run dry. Whatever you do don't go on Facebook yourself, you'll end up poor.

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