Facebook dismantles fake accounts that had thousands interested in a rally

Fake users on social media are as common as spam and at least as dangerous as the Internet Research Agency’s (IRA) Russian-bought political ads — and they’re trying harder to obscure just who’s behind the posts. Facebook has now removed dozens of accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” including creating an event in Washington next week that had more than 3,000 real people responding to the event, the network shared on Tuesday, July 31. While Facebook says it doesn’t yet know who is behind those accounts, one of the Pages created a “No Unite The Right 2” event that gained the support of five real Pages as co-hosts.

Facebook removed 32 accounts associated in those coordinated efforts, including eight Pages, 17 profiles, and seven Instagram accounts. While a handful had fewer than 10 followers, the grouping had more than 290,000 followers, created 9,500 organic posts, and spent around $11,000 on advertising.

The most followed Pages included Aztlan Warriors, Black Elevation, Mindful Being and Resisters. Sample posts from the deleted Pages ranged from anti-Trump to posts supporting women’s rights. Those fake Pages were responsible for about 30 events, with the largest getting the attention of 4,700 accounts and 1,400 confirmed to attend.

An event slated for August 10 by the fake Resisters Page claimed to be a protest against a second Unite The Right rally. Last year, the white supremacist Unite the Right rally ended up sparking a riot that left one person dead. According to USA Today, the organizer behind that original rally, Jason Kessler, applied for a permit on the first anniversary of the event for Charlottesville, Virginia and Washington D.C. but was denied.

With the help of five real Pages, the “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” got 2,600 users to tap that “Interested” icon on the event, and 600 said they were going to the event.

Facebook says the Pages and profiles were even more adept at covering their tracks than the IRA — Facebook still isn’t quite sure who’s behind the coordinated fake Pages. The network said while some of the Pages were consistent with what the IRA tried, others used different methods. The inauthentic Pages, for example, paid third parties to take out ads for them and used virtual private networks or VPNs.

“Given these bad actors are now working harder to obscure their identities, we need to find every small mistake they make. It’s why we’re following up on thousands of leads, including information from law enforcement and lessons we learned from last year’s IRA investigation,” Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher wrote.

Besides removing the accounts, Facebook has already shared the information with law enforcement in the U.S. as well as other technology companies and the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab, an organization helping Facebook analyze abuse.

Facebook says that “security is not something that’s ever done” — after the networks make security improvements, so do the bad actors attempting to gain an audience on the platform. “We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics,” Facebook wrote. “It’s an arms race and we need to constantly improve too. It’s why we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to prevent bad actors misusing Facebook — as well as working much more closely with law enforcement and other tech companies to better understand the threats we face.”

The company says that it will continue to update users if the investigation turns up additional — or different — details.

Social Media

Tumblr promises it fixed a bug that left user data exposed

A bug on blogging site Tumblr left user data exposed. The company says that once it learned of the flaw, it acted quickly to fix it, adding that it's confident no data linked to its users' accounts was stolen.
Social Media

Over selfies and an onslaught of ads? Here's how delete your Instagram account

Despite its outstanding popularity and photo-sharing dominance, Instagram isn't for everyone. Thankfully, deleting your account is as easy as logging into the site and clicking a few buttons. Here's what you need to do.
Smart Home

Facebook’s new Portal device can collect your data to target your ads

Facebook confirmed that its new Portal smart displays, designed to enable Messenger-enabled video calls, technically have the capability to gather data on users via the camera and mic onboard.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in October, from 'Mindhunter’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Social Media

3D Facebook photos jump out of the newsfeed, no glasses needed

You're not seeing things -- that photo in your Facebook newsfeed is 3D. Launching today, 3D Facebook Photos use the depth maps from dual-lens smartphones to add dimension to an image as you move your phone.
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?
Computing

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Mobile

Hinge's new feature wants to know who you've gone out on dates with

With its new "We Met" feature, Hinge wants to learn how your dates are going with matches in its app. That way, it can inject the information into its algorithm to provide future recommendations that better suit its users' preferences.
Social Media

Like a pocketable personal stylist, Pinterest overhauls shopping tools

Pinterest shopping just got a bit better with a trio of updates now rolling out to Pinterest. The first replaces Buyable Pins with Product Pins for more features, including knowing whether or not a product is in stock.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.
Social Media

Twitter has sorted out those weird notifications it was sending

Twitter started churning out weird notifications of seemingly nonsensical letters and numbers to many of its users on Tuesday morning. The bizarre incident even prompted Twitter boss Jack Dorsey to get involved.
Photography

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Home Theater

Facebook might be planning a streaming box for your TV that watches you back

Facebook is reportedly working on a piece of streaming media hardware for your living room with a built-in camera for video calls, something people may not want given the company's recent controversies.
Computing

Adobe’s craziest new tools animate photos, convert recordings to music in a click

Adobe shared a glimpse behind the scenes at what's next and the Creative Cloud future is filled with crazy A.I.-powered tools, moving stills, and animation reacting to real-time tweets.