Facebook Informs US Congress About Secret Russian Operations

Congressman Lieu joins civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis and House Democrats during the House Democrats Sit-In on Gun Control. (Representational image)
Congressman Lieu joins civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis and House Democrats during the House Democrats Sit-In on Gun Control. (Representational image)

Facebook says it has shared information about its investigation with US law enforcement, the US Congress, other technology companies, and policymakers in the impacted countries.

By Rakesh Raman

Of late, Facebook has been in the eye of the storm for a privacy scandal in which a rogue data analysis firm stole and shared Facebook user data without users’ consent.

It is reported that the British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was secretly manipulating Facebook data of nearly 50 million users and selling it mainly to politicians to help them win elections.

Last month, the Attorney General of the District of Columbia had filed a lawsuit against Facebook for its failure to protect users’ data.

In his complaint, Attorney General (AG) Karl Racine alleged that Facebook’s lax oversight and misleading privacy settings allowed, among other things, a third-party application to use the platform to harvest personal information of millions of users without their permission and then sell it to a political consulting firm.

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In order to check mischievous activities on its site, Facebook said Thursday it has removed hundreds of Facebook Pages and accounts that were created from Russia.

“Today we removed 364 Facebook Pages and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a network that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern European countries,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy of Facebook, in his article published on Facebook.

The Page administrators and account owners primarily represented themselves as independent news Pages or general interest Pages on topics like weather, travel, sports, economics, or politicians in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan.

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“Despite their misrepresentations of their identities, we found that these Pages and accounts were linked to employees of Sputnik, a news agency based in Moscow, and that some of the Pages frequently posted about topics like anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption,” Gleicher added in his article.

Facebook also informs that nearly 790,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and around $135,000 were spent for ads on Facebook paid for in euros, rubles, and US dollars.

The first ad ran in October 2013, and the most recent ad ran in January 2019. “We have not completed a review of the organic content coming from these accounts,” Gleicher stated in his article which carries a number of examples of the removed pages.

Facebook says it has shared information about its investigation with US law enforcement, the US Congress, other technology companies, and policymakers in the impacted countries.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

Photo courtesy: Ted Lieu

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Rakesh Raman