Facebook shuts down accounts over signs of disrupting U.S. elections


WASHINGTON D.C. (News4Utah)-Facebook announced it identified and shut down 32 fake accounts, calling them sophisticated efforts to disrupt the U.S. elections.

Cybersecurity experts told the Senate Intelligence Committee Russians are amping up efforts to weaponize social media against the U.S.

“Russian manipulation did not stop in 2016. After election day the Russians stepped on the gas,” Graphica CEO John Kelly said.

The attacks involve distributing false news, hacking, data harvesting and taking advantage of social media algorithms.  American defense systems haven’t kept up.

 “We’re in the midst of an arms race in which responsibility for the integrity of public discourse is largely in the hands of private social platforms,” Renee Diresta, Director of Research New Knowledge said.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to know how influential the fake Russian accounts are.

“Can you estimate the number of Americans touched by Russian linked activity?” said Feinstein.

The social media representative said it spread across the entire information ecosystem, often targeting specific demographics.

“Among racial minorities which the Russians then use to suppress their vote,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.

The panel noted in 2016 often post from Russian accounts would get reported on by traditional media – spreading the false narratives and giving them more credibility.

Republicans and Democrats agree it is a security threat.

 “This is more than that this is nothing less than informational warfare,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris wants voters to know fake Russian accounts are increasingly sophisticated and deceptive.

“I believe first we must act urgently to bolster our country’s defenses,” she said.

To fight back the panel suggests stricter evaluation of our information operations, a stronger focus on detection of fake accounts, and foreign policy options.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...