Facebook has this week published its Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior report for May, which outlines all of the accounts, pages and groups that the platform has removed over the course of the month due to identified efforts to mislead and misinform Facebook uses for varying purpose.
As explained by Facebook:
“We’re constantly working to find and stop coordinated campaigns that seek to manipulate public debate across our apps.[…] We view influence operations as coordinated efforts to manipulate public debate for a strategic goal where fake accounts are central to the operation.”
In May, Facebook removed 253 Facebook accounts, 240 Instagram profiles, 101 Facebook groups and 770 Facebook Pages as a result of its detection and investigation efforts.
The groups removed in May included networks originating from Tunisia and Iraq, with the Tunisian-based group working to influence users in Sub-Saharan Africa, while the Iraq-based network was focused on influencing domestic politics, and appears to have been funded by the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Facebook’s efforts on this front will become more important as the 2020 US Presidential Election campaign starts to gain momentum, with the platform keen to showcase how much its systems have evolved since its apps were used for mass-manipulation, by various groups, during the 2016 campaign.
Facebook has implemented a range of detection and awareness tools since then, and those efforts, based on the monthly CIB reports – which Facebook has been providing since February – do seem to be having an impact.
Looking at the reported figures, there are no significant trends or indicators which suggest that such activity is increasing – though removals of Facebook Pages have ramped up in the last two months.
Yet, even so, the month-by-month numbers are too variable at this stage to establish any definitive trends. Once we have a year of data – and insights heading into the US Election – we should have a clearer view of what Facebook’s seeing, and where such efforts are being focused on its platfoms.
And that’s another question that will need to be addressed. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, messaging apps have become the weapon of choice for many such campaigns, with WhatsApp, in particular, seeing an uptick in misinformation campaigns.
WhatsApp and Messenger aren’t listed in Facebook’s CIB reports specifically, but that may be another area which can provide more context as to how such groups are operating, and their evolving tactics over time.
But right now, the reports are more a point of interest, providing additional transparency into what’s happening, but not much of a window into emerging threats. As noted, it’ll be interesting to see how those trends shift in the months ahead.
You can read Facebook’s full Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior report for May here.