Facebook cracks down on "financially motivated" fake news

Social network also kills fake accounts in drive for authenticity

Facebook has removed tens of thousands of fake accounts in a bid to take down a worldwide spam campaign.

The social network has been fighting the campaign for six months, according to a blog post by Shabnam Shaik, a technical program manager on the firm's Protect and Care team. He said the campaign was made up of inauthentic likes and comments that appear to come from accounts located in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and a number of other countries.

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"We found that most of this activity was generated not through traditional mass account creation methods, but by more sophisticated means that try to mask the fact that the accounts are part of the same coordinated operation," he said.

"They used tricks to avoid detection, including redirecting their traffic through 'proxies' that disguised their location."

Shaik said that the apparent intent of the campaign was to deceptively gain new friend connections by liking and interacting primarily with popular publisher pages on Facebook, after which point they would send spam.

Facebook had been able to identify a large portion of this illegitimate activity and to remove a substantial number of inauthentic likes.

He added that the social network expected that 99% of impacted Pages with more than 10,000 likes will see a drop of less than 3%. "None of these likes were the result of paid ads from the affected Pages," Shaik added.

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In a separate blog post, Shaik said that Facebook has also made several new security improvements, created to target "deceptive material, such as false news, hoaxes, and misinformation".

He added that France had seen the new measures implemented, just as that country goes to the polls to elect a new president.

"In France, for example, these improvements have enabled us to take action against over 30,000 fake accounts," he said. 

"While these most recent improvements will not result in the removal of every fake account, we are dedicated to continually improving our effectiveness."

He said that systems were in place to detect repeated posting of the same content, or an increase in messages sent.

"We've found that a lot of false news is financially motivated, and as part of our work to promote an informed society, we have focused on making it very difficult for dishonest people to exploit our platform or profit financially from false news sites using Facebook."

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