Twitter and Facebook ban bogus users; some had photos created by AI
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NEW YORK – Twitter has identified and deleted nearly 6,000 accounts it said were part of a coordinated effort by Saudi government agencies and individuals to advance the country’s geopolitical interests.
Separately, Facebook said it removed hundreds of Facebook accounts, groups and pages linked to inauthentic behavior from two separate groups, one from the country of Georgia and the other from Vietnam, which targeted people both in the country. Vietnam and the United States.
Facebook said some of the accounts used profile photos generated by artificial intelligence and posing as Americans. It is one of the first such disinformation efforts to use AI-generated material.
Tech companies have stepped up efforts to tackle misinformation about their services ahead of next year’s US presidential elections. The efforts followed revelations that the Russians funded thousands of bogus political ads in the 2016 election to sow dissent among Americans.
The Twitter and Facebook ads highlight that the misinformation problems are not limited to the United States and Russia.
In a blog post on Friday, Twitter say it The deleted Saudi accounts amplified messages favorable to the Saudi authorities, mainly through “aggressive taste, retweets and replies.” While the majority of the content was in Arabic, Twitter said the tweets also amplified discussions about sanctions in Iran and appearances by Saudi government officials in Western media.
“Governments have started launching influence campaigns in the same way that commercial companies launch campaigns to sell detergents or cars,” said James Ludes, a national defense expert who teaches international relations and law enforcement. public policy at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island.
He said Russia’s efforts in 2016 have shown that it is possible to “really change public attitudes through the targeted use of social media.”
While attempts to root out the countryside may seem like a piece of hogwash, he said the companies have at least shown progress in taking action to identify and eliminate manipulation campaigns by foreign powers.
Twitter started tweets archiving and media he considers associated with known state-sponsored information operations in 2018. He closed 200,000 Chinese accounts targeting the Hong Kong protests in August.
The 5,929 accounts deleted and added to the archives are part of a larger group of 88,000 accounts engaged in “spam behavior” on a wide range of topics. But Twitter doesn’t disclose them all, as some could be legitimate accounts taken over by hackers.
The Twitter accounts were linked to a social media marketing company in Saudi Arabia, Smaat, which managed many government departments in Saudi Arabia. The accounts used third-party automated tools to amplify non-political content at high volumes. Twitter said the activity was used to hide political maneuvering from the same accounts.
Samuel Woolley, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies disinformation, said that while the Saudi campaign used basic manipulation techniques, including the use of likes and retweets to give the illusion of popularity , the size and scale of the campaign were unusual. The existence of an army of thousands of Saudi accounts also shows that social media companies still don’t have a good solution, he said, despite the progress they have made in identifying the accounts backed by the state.
“It is really clear that we have to do something about this,” he said. “It can’t be just after the fact. We need to improve real-time detection. “
Messages left with Saudi officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the country’s embassy in Washington were not immediately returned.
The Saudi government has used various tactics to control speech and prevent reformers and others from organizing, including employing armies of trolls to harass and intimidate online users. He also arrested and jailed Twitter users.
In September, Twitter suspended the account of the former chief adviser to the crown prince, Saud al-Qahtani, who also served as director of the cybersecurity federation. Similar to Friday’s announcement, Twitter said that account violated the company’s platform manipulation policy.
Last month, two former Twitter employees were accused of acting as agents of Saudi Arabia without registering with the US government. the complaint details a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees from the social media giant to search for private data from Twitter accounts, including account-linked email addresses and Internet Protocol addresses that may give up the location of an user.
Regarding Facebook’s actions, Facebook said the Georgian group is targeting domestic audiences and the Vietnamese group is primarily focused in the United States, as well as Vietnamese, Spanish-speaking and Chinese audiences around the world.
The company said it created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing. To evade detection, they used a combination of fake and real accounts of people in the United States to manage pages and groups, the company said.
“We are making progress in eliminating this abuse, but as we have said before, it is an ongoing challenge,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s chief security officer, said in a blog post.
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