Another Day, Another Major Disinformation Effort Facebook Thinks Is Ok

from the hoodwinked-patriots-dot-come dept

Our disinformation problem simply isn’t going away. While the Russian “Internet Research Agency” has received most of the attention for filling the internet with bullshit and bile, the problem is routinely disclosed to be far larger than that. Take for example the thriving “fake news” efforts coming out of Macedonia, where (with the help of US allies) filling the internet and Facebook with disinformation has become a cottage industry. And while Facebook spends a lot of time insisting they’re taking radical steps to police the problem in the wake of genocide in Myanmar, it remains fairly clear they still don’t have a handle on the problem.

For example yet another disinformation operation uncovered this week involves a Ukrainian-run “I Love America” Facebook group with more than a million members. In concert with other similar pages like “God bless Donald and Melania Trump and God bless America,” the effort lures boomers in with cute kittens and patriotic memes before getting to the real meat and potatoes of the effort:

Many of the posts are just repurposed versions previously pushed by the IRA in a bid to try and stoke existing racial and political tensions in the United States:

And while the usual suspects will likely try to downplay this as “just a few harmless memes,” the outfit’s engagement surpasses many of the biggest, actual news organizations on Facebook, meaning there’s still an awful lot of folks having their patriotism and military respect exploited and their heads filled with fluff and nonsense so some Ukrainian nitwits can make a buck:

Collectively this effort is far larger than the IRA-linked Facebook groups highlighted in the Mueller report, none of which had more than 390,000 members. The report doesn’t think this effort is covert or sophisticated enough to be a government-backed effort (in large part because the Ukrainian backers aren’t trying to hide who they are), and is likely just some “entrepreneurs” using pro-Trump propaganda and kittens to make money. Facebook, for its part, doesn’t think this rises to the level of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” because the Ukranians aren’t hiding their identity (read: it’s profitable to Facebook):

“A Facebook spokesperson told Popular Information that the company does not believe any of the Facebook pages discussed in this article violate its policies, including the policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Facebook defines “coordinated inauthentic behavior” as “when groups of pages or people work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing.”

While it may not be part of a foreign-government backed campaign, the end result is the same. Facebook users are being exploited and having their heads filled with rocks for profit. And (at least until this story gets some traction), Facebook’s cool with it.

Update: That didn’t take long, and Facebook appears to have seen the problem with a bunch of Ukrainians misleading US Facebook users to make a quick buck:

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Comments on “Another Day, Another Major Disinformation Effort Facebook Thinks Is Ok”

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73 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

How long does it take to turn a super tanker?

"UPDATE: 8 hours after popular.info’s report, Facebook has taken down the Ukrainian "I Love America" page & every other page identified in the piece This was a huge network pushing pro-Trump propaganda with greater reach than the NYT & WashPost"

I guess Facebook can be moved, it just depends upon how you poke them (I have heard, though don’t know for sure that ‘poke’ is a term about some kind of action on Facebook. Depending upon what that term means on Facebook then I absolutely intended the double entendre, or not).

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Why should it have been taken down?

It was a propaganda campaign aimed at the United States. Its sole purpose was help make sure Donald Trump — useful idiot that he is — would win the 2020 election. Unless you like the idea of foreign powers interfering with U.S. elections in favor of (or on behalf of) a single candidate/political party, I would think you’d also want such things taken down.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Saying "We are not a democracy, we are a republic." is like saying:

  1. "It’s not a bird, it’s a parrot."
  2. "It’s not a car, it’s a Toyota Corolla."
  3. "He’s not a troll, he’s out_of_the_blue."

Republics are democracies by definition.

The political party of the POTUS from Thomas Jefferson up until Andrew Jackson was "Democratic-Republican".

…Unless you’re saying the US is in fact a plutocratic oligarchy, by which I largely agree with you that it is. But I think it’s a terrible thing that we’re not a democratic republic.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, facebook came under a bit of fire because of misinformation spread by Russian-government-backed outfits, including those based in the Ukraine, which were intended to influence an election. Interviews with people on the street suggest that misinformation did in fact make it to voters.

As your statements readily admit at least some of the content is misinformation, from a Ukrainian outfit that appears designed to conceal its origin from general voters and spread misinformation ahead of another election.

And regardless of your opinions on immigration, the image used by the Russian-government-backed IRA and repurposed by the Ukrainan account here sets up a false dichotomy designed to inflame political tensions to influence voters, polarize politicians and deadlock the US politically to neuter our power on the world stage. I’d think that Russian propaganda designed to make America Putin’s bitch would be an issue for conservatives, but apparently not.

The issue is that while they express opinions you agree with on illegal immigration, they also are spreading false information. The goal is that you follow them, agreeing with the opinions expressed, and then buy into the lies and misinformation that come along with it.** We see, in general, lies and disinformation as detrimental to our Democracy, but tolerate some level of this as a part of our interest in free speech. But when foreign entities utilize lies and disinformation in connection with elections we see that as a line too far. Facebook is only doing what our elected officials, on both sides, have asked them to do.

**As an allegory for how this works: Its not unlike how Jordan Peterson gained a following that express his political beliefs. He provided basic self help advice which helped a number of people. When he later expressed political beliefs either directly or indirectly, his followers than associated those political beliefs with the proven advice Jordan Peterson gave.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Sorry, I didn’t mean to demean concern about outside influence, I merely meant that we also shoot ourselves in the foot, in systemic ways.

Foreign influence is bad, but so are things we do to ourselves. Getting past ideologies that like the bad things we do to ourselves is problematic. Getting paste foreign influence is easier, just identify it and turn it off, as was done in this case.

Of course it becomes more difficult when the truth is called fake news and fake news is received as the truth. Those things require more speech, better sourcing, more believable investigations which would then be followed by more speech.

GS (profile) says:

I find it disingenuous that libtards in general worry more about Russians interfering with our election then illegal immigrants who by law are not allowed to vote in our elections. You can’t have your cake and eat it too if the Russians or ukrainians are not allowed to interfere in our elections that neither are Mexican and other Central American citizens.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t worry about illegal immigrants voting because after 30 years of the illegal in-person voting scheme boogeyman being thrown around, no serious in depth analysis has succeeded in highlighting widespread fraud. Every time someone claims to have the smoking gun, investigations into the bad votes reveal that the supposed fraud is explained as mostly or entirely legal circumstances. (See my comments on North Carolina in 2016

Its telling that you specifically call out central american illegal immigration, despite the majority of illegal immigrants in the US being canadian. Are Canadians somehow inherently less likely to vote illegally?

Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let’s not forget that the Trump regime created a voter fraud investigation panel, added people who claim there are illegal voters everywhere, and they came up with nothing. Kobach basically makes a living from alleging voter fraud in red states then ‘fixing’ the problem by purging (largely minority) voters and erecting barriers to stop them re-registering, he was put in a position to dig and find something to try and force his will on all 50 states, yet he found nothing.

If there was any evidence for it at all, we wouldn’t hear the last of that evidence, there would be fix news specials, Benghazi-like hearings, but here we are.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I, too, find it disingenuous that libtards are more worried about things that actually exist than made-up shit. You never hear them talk about all those illegal immigrants who voted in California with their devious scheme to run up Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory while losing the election, or the laser-farting unicorns who voted for Evan McMullin in Utah, or the lizard people who did 9/11 with their mind-control vaccines.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I find it disingenuous that libtards in general worry more about Russians interfering with our election then illegal immigrants who by law are not allowed to vote in our elections.

If they cannot vote, how are they interfering? Or are you worried about people who can barely speak English taking all your jobs?

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Just for clarification

WHile I can’t speak for Karl, in general I would say that when anyone uses propaganda (meaning lies and misinformation to support of a person or policy) and kittens to make money it is bad and distasteful, but probably not something the government should hold hearings over. However, when a foreign entity uses pro-candidate or pro-incumbant propaganda and kittens, particularly in proximity to an election, to make money it starts to be the kind of thing we hold hearings over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprised that y’all didn’t get some faux-libertarian Koch-funded think tank to write an article about how Facebook should let bullshit and lies slide because there will magically always be someone to counter their speech. Y’know, like that time you guys published an article from a Cato Institute shill that claimed that it was fine to leave fake propaganda up.

John85851 (profile) says:

Who's the bigger fool

In the words of Ben Kenobi, "Who’s the bigger fool- the fool or the fool who follows him?"
So, what’s worse: that the Ukrainians are creating memes like this or that people blindly agree with and share the stories. How about doing a tiny bit of research first?

And for people who ask, what’s the harm? Let’s see:
People start to more easily believe even more fake news.
People stop believing the "main stream media" because these memes tell them that only Fox News reports the "truth".
And then people basically become brainwashed into believing whatever you want them to believe.

Heck, even now, all you have to tell some Republicans that "Obama did this…" and they’ll believe anything.

That One Guy (profile) says:

... uh, what?

The fact that a campaign of significant political propaganda by a foreign agency in order to influence a US election originally got a pass because they weren’t hiding who they were is just nuts. ‘Sure they’re allowed to mislead would-be voters in another country, just so long as they don’t pretend to be someone they aren’t in the process’, as if that would be of any real significance overall.

ECA (profile) says:

Weeding thru the Piles...

To get to the point..
The USA gov. learned allot of this stuff long ago, in WWII..with the Movie industry..YT has allot of those Videos..
Corps, and the political Sides have jumped into the ring, Long ago. And the Brain washing keeps happening.
It was found that IT WASNT the USA that was sending the DATA from a Country OUTSIDE of Russia,,,,BUT it was a USA corp that paid for it..
That company found Good money Sending SPAM, AND BS…Paid for the highest bidder, if not from both sides..

"WHO cares what they want to say. We collect the money from everyone."
Nice concept. Capitalism at its best. And we are showing the world HOW to do it..

And for anyone voting, I would still Like a Button that says.."None of the Above"

restless94110 (profile) says:

Tech Dirt Stands Solidly Against Free Speech

Trying to figure why Tech Dirt writes these anti-Free Speech pieces all the time.

Guess they think that those who have conclusions differing from theirs are spewing "bile," as if bile mattered. It’s all free speech.

If you get a phone line installed, the phone company doesn’t get to regulate who may speak and who may not.

Curiously, Tech Dirt comes out again and again against this obvious fact, claiming that some "boomers" or whoever Tech Dirt doesn’t like this week are deserving of censorship and suppression.

Thus does Tech Dirt undermine most of its writings. I’m getting to the point of thinking that it must be some kind of brain fungus the Tech Dirt writers are suffering from. It’s a pity.

Oh, and PS, it’s purty obvious that Tech Dirt favorite Hillary was indeed running an outside server in order to hide her pay for play activities. Nothing else makes any kind of sense. Yet, Tech Dirt believes coming to obvious conclusions like that are "bile."

Is Hill on your board of directors or something? Who knows? And who cares? Many people know nonsense when they read it.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Facebook is not an Internet access provider; it is a platform for speech. Since it not a government-run platform, its owners can decide what speech they will and will not let Facebook host. No platform such as Facebook is required to host all legally protected speech — and you, like Blue Balls, cannot cite a single law, statute, or “common law” court ruling that says otherwise.

In other words…

If you get a phone line installed, the phone company doesn’t get to regulate who may speak and who may not.

If Facebook were responsible for your Internet access, you would have a point. But it’s not. So you don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: man passionate defender of what he imagined Free Speech to be

That’s nice that you finally got your ego back together after the last time we knocked your dick in the dirt when you went off about what you imagine free speech to be. Pretty antique whatabouthillary there too. They must be handing out handfuls of them at swap meets the way you tools. are tossing them around bro.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Tech Dirt Stands Solidly Against Free Speech

Trying to figure why Tech Dirt writes these anti-Free Speech pieces all the time.

What is anti-free speech in the above? Please be specific. Thanks.

Guess they think that those who have conclusions differing from theirs are spewing "bile," as if bile mattered.

We did not and would not say or suggest that. The issue is not bile, it is about whether or not a private platform has to host blatant propaganda designed to influence a foreign election.

Are you arguing that a private platform must carry all content?

Curiously, Tech Dirt comes out again and again against this obvious fact, claiming that some "boomers" or whoever Tech Dirt doesn’t like this week are deserving of censorship and suppression.

When and where have we suggested that?

Oh, and PS, it’s purty obvious that Tech Dirt favorite Hillary was indeed running an outside server in order to hide her pay for play activities. Nothing else makes any kind of sense. Yet, Tech Dirt believes coming to obvious conclusions like that are "bile."

You write that as if we weren’t among the most critical of Hillary’s practices with her server. I mean…

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150723/22280331744/turns-out-hillary-clinton-had-hundreds-potentially-classified-emails-private-server-officials-ask-criminal-investigation-update.shtml

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150304/11464230210/how-hillary-clinton-exposed-her-emails-to-foreign-spies-order-to-hide-them-american-public.shtml

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160705/08455934895/fbi-clinton-should-have-known-private-email-server-no-way-to-handle-classified-info-no-charges-will-be-sought.shtml

But because you’re so quick to defend foreign propaganda you feel the need to make up some weird fantasy where Hillary — who I don’t remember ever saying anything even remotely nice about — must be on our board.

What the fuck?

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Tech Dirt Stands Solidly Against Free Speech

Would it be nice…
To bring all the BS/Crap up onto a TV show…and Prove/disprove what was said..

It swould be so much Fun..and then we look into WHO created/posted /Backed it to be made..

Love Delousing my friends.. A post about FB not posting a pic of a Military person with Lost legs…Was really stupid. I looked it up and told my friend..He erased it..

Undetectable Deepfaxes says:

Sheesh! Again with the phony Russian claims!

While the Russian "Internet Research Agency" has received most of the attention for filling the internet with bullshit and bile,

That was stated to be at most 0.004% of advertising in the election. That’s a PERCENT figure, so 40 parts in a million, which is near ZERO actual effect, besides that most of it was pro-Hillary!

Sheesh. You kids are just NEVER going to give up on "Trump-Russia collusion" are you? Not even after totally debunked by dedicated attack dog unable to find least charge in two years?

Never change, Techdirt! I need the HOOTS!

Anonymous Coward says:

Another day another idiot

If some dudes from a non-US country can make money by posting posters and US citizens dont see it for what it is after years of reporting on this type of trolling, then the problem are the US citizens.

As for disinformation, just look at anything from CBS over the last week or so on the attacks against the Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Donald Trump was called a racist before he ran against democrats

The meme that Donald Trump was not once called a racist until he decided to run against democrats is provably false.

Here’s the proof: The 1990’s Minnesota-based cable television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 mentioned Donald Trump numerous times and one time compared his book Art of the Deal to Mein Kampf and Pat Buchanan’s speeches.

I thought that Tupac Shakur denouncing Donald Trump in 1992 was calling him racist back then, but I watched the clip and it’s more about denouncing him for being greedy rather than racist, so I can’t use that as evidence.

MST3K’s prescient Trump bashing should still definitely count, though!

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