(Report) Russia Behind Thousands Of Fake Social Media Profiles Pushing Anti-Clinton Message

The New York Times and cyber security firm FireEye reveals that Russian fingerprints behinds thousands of fake profiles pushing an anti-Clinton message prior to the 2016 election. (Image courtesy of Republic of Korea)

The New York Times and cyber security firm FireEye reveals that Russian fingerprints behinds tho usands of fake profiles pushing an anti-Clinton message prior to the 2016 election.

An investigation by The New York Times, and new research from the cybersecurity firm FireEye, reveals some of the mechanisms by which suspected Russian operators used Twitter and Facebook to spread anti-Clinton messages and promote the hacked material they had leaked. On Wednesday, Facebook officials disclosed that they had shut down several hundred accounts that they believe were created by a Russian company linked to the Kremlin and used to buy $100,000 in ads pushing divisive issues during and after the American election campaign.

On Twitter, as on Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on hundreds or thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages. Many were automated Twitter accounts, called bots, that sometimes fired off identical messages seconds apart — and in the exact alphabetical order of their made-up names, according to the FireEye researchers. On Election Day, for instance, they found that one group of Twitter bots sent out the hashtag #WarAgainstDemocrats more than 1,700 times.

Part of the problem is that shareholders judge social media companies based on an 'active monthly user metric', something that might prevent websites from investigating whether a member is a real person or not.

Critics say that because shareholders judge the companies partly based on a crucial data point — “monthly active users” — they are reluctant to police their sites too aggressively for fear of reducing that number. The companies use technical tools and teams of analysts to detect bogus accounts, but the scale of the sites — 328 million users on Twitter, nearly two billion on Facebook — means they often remove impostors only in response to complaints.

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