Fake news is all the rage these days. At least, it seems to be what most people want to rage about. From the Sinclair media viral video, to prognosticators on talk radio and TV news to ALL CAPS shouters on social media threads, fake news seems to be everywhere. So far, though, only one outlet has admitted being infested: Facebook.
Facebook Acknowledges Removing Fake Accounts
The social media giant has admitted to having removed “hundreds” of fake accounts run by foreign “troll farms” that create accounts just to stir up dissention and start trouble on social media. Many of these accounts, perhaps most of them, initially targeted Americans. Now, though, Facebook has been forced to admit the infestation was much worse — and more widespread — than originally thought.
The company acknowledged having removed an additional 300 “fake” accounts and pages run by the troll groups, this time pages and accounts targeting Russian-speaking social media users.
All told, the additionally removed pages on Facebook and Instagram were followed by more than one million people including users in Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine as well as the United States. The groups in question reportedly paid Facebook up to $167,000 in ad revenue as well. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has been facing increased attention and heat across the globe for both “fake” accounts.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, called removing the accounts, “an important step to protect the integrity of elections around the world,” adding, “Security isn’t a problem you ever fully solve. Organizations … are sophisticated adversaries who are constantly evolving, but we’ll keep improving our techniques to stay ahead — especially when it comes to protecting the integrity of elections…”.
Facebook Not Looking So Great
That comment puts into stark perspective one of the key complaints about these so-called “fake” accounts: that they were created with the express purpose of disrupting democratic elections. Some support that claim, while many others feel that’s overstating both the aim and the success of the troll groups. Sure, they can get people riled up online, but are they actually changing the way people vote? That’s the question skeptics of this whole investigation are asking, and, at least so far, there haven’t been any definitive answers.
Some are applauding Facebook for taking these steps. Others are saying it’s too little and way too late. Still some are saying the fact that Facebook is targeting certain groups, and not necessarily the content of the pages associated with those groups, constitutes unfair treatment. Each of these positions is being argued exhaustively — and constantly — online. Meanwhile, most Facebook users are still wondering if one of the sites they “liked” were among those that have been closed down, and, if so… were they duped?
It’s yet another facet in the ongoing struggle Facebook is having with user confidence these days.
Ronn Torossian is a public relations leader and executive with over 20 years of experience