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Facebook Sees No Foreign Interference Around Protests

Kurt Wagner
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Facebook Sees No Foreign Interference Around Protests

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. said it removed two networks of accounts linked to white supremacy groups, but hasn’t seen any attempted foreign interference on its platforms related to the recent Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. targeting police brutality.

Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that the U.S. government has seen evidence of “foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.” But Facebook officials said Friday they haven’t detected foreign influence on the social network. “We have not yet seen or received evidence of foreign interference or coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting the protests,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook.

The social-media company, however, said it removed dozens of accounts linked to two white supremacy groups, Proud Boys and American Guard, which were “organizing around the protests.” The two groups had previously been banned from Facebook, but resurfaced.

“These groups were planning to rally supporters and members to physically go on the ground to the protests, in some cases preparing to go with weapons,” said Brian Fishman, Facebook’s director for counter-terrorism and dangerous organizations.

Facebook officials also said they removed the accounts of some individual users who were posing as Antifa members to “deceive the public.” Specifically, Facebook took down a “handful of largely dormant Pages and accounts” that were linked to a Twitter account posing as an Antifa member to incite violence. Antifa is a loosely organized leftist movement that is a frequent target of conservative critics, who have accused it of fomenting violence during the recent protests. Facebook found the pages after Twitter officials reached out to share more information about the account, said Gleicher.

The executives’ comments came as Facebook released its monthly report on what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior” -- networks of accounts working together to artificially push a particular message or spam users. Facebook removed two such groups in May, including one with more than 400 Pages, and a total of 400 Facebook and Instagram accounts in Tunisia posing as local individuals and news organizations.

A second network originating in Iraq that included 324 Pages and more than 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts was also removed.

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