Facebook says identified 'political influence campaign' ahead of United States midterm elections

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The announcement is Facebook's first acknowledgement of potential meddling ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S. in November. The social network said they found evidence of "connections" between the accounts suspended today and previous accounts linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency, but that it was insufficient to conclude that Russians were behind them.

According to a Facebook official, the company this week briefed members of the U.S. House and Senate as well as officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

"I think with pretty high confidence that.this was Russian-related", he said. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of that committee. "The Russians want a weak America".

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence vowed to protect the upcoming elections from such foreign interference.

It revealed it has suspended 32 accounts "because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior".

After being caught flat-footed by the Internet Research Agency's efforts to use social media to sow division before the 2016 presidential election, Facebook is trying to avoid a repeat disaster in 2018.

The company said more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the fake pages, with the earliest having been created in March 2017. Unite the Right was a far-right rally that included Nazis and white nationalists.

However, some users were not so impressed as many said they believed shutting down two dozen accounts would barely make a dent in combatting the spread of fake news. The earliest was created in March of a year ago, while the most recent was created this May.

The names Facebook said were given to some of the deleted pages paralleled those of 2016 groups allegedly established by Russian agents to manipulate American voters with particular ethnic, cultural, or political identities.

"We disabled the event earlier today and reached out out to the legitimate admins of five other pages", said Gleicher in a call with reporters.

Facebook said the entities behind the accounts ran about 150 ads for about $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for with USA and Canadian currency.

Facebook said since the company has increased efforts to prevent abuse, the creators of fake accounts have begun to employ trickier, more secretive efforts. Facebook said that the "bad actors" used VPNs and internet phone services to hide their identity and even paid third parties to run ads on their behalf.

The company's announcement comes after it has faced congressional questioning this year about whether it has marginalized conservative voices or allowed nutty sites to exist, and in the wake of last week's huge market drop in the share price following Facebook's announcement the pace of new accounts opening had slackened.

Having been publicly embarrassed and then excoriated for its failure to identify a massive misinformation campaign last time around, Facebook has expanded its security team, hiring several serious counterterrorism experts, and introduced new rules included the requirement for political advertisers to register with a USA addresses.

The company previously had said 126 million Americans may have seen Russian-backed political content on Facebook over a two-year period, and that 16 million may have been exposed to Russian information on Instagram.

However, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement tying the latest Facebook activity directly to Russian Federation.