Facebook Says Spammers, Scanners Using US Elections To Make Profits Online

Scammers from Albania to Vietnam are covering US politics and the upcoming presidential election to build fake audiences, maximize clicks and make money online, Facebook said on Wednesday.

In one new report Regarding the so-called “spurious behavior” on its platform, Facebook said the November 3rd elections had become a common incentive to entice users to visit online stores or websites that feature pay-per-view ads are loaded.

“If you’re a financially motivated actor trying to make money from clicks, you’ll be using whatever content you can think of,” Nathaniel Gleicher, director of cybersecurity at Facebook, told Reuters.

“And of course there is a lot of emphasis on what happens in the US around the elections.”

After heavy criticism of the efforts of political and commercial groups to manipulate their users, Facebook is now regularly announcing the end of online influencing operations, such as three Russia-affiliated networks that it said last month were disrupting the US vote could.

The same said Wednesday’s report differs from previous announcements because it deals with less threatening activities that are usually financially rather than politically motivated but are often confused with foreign meddling.

In an interview prior to the report’s release, he said he wanted to between the two types of activity ahead of the U.S. vote and next month’s elections in Myanmar, a country where the military and other groups have been repeatedly caught on social media distinguish spreading hatred and disinformation.

“I want people to be aware of the full range of deception that is going on out there,” said Gleicher. “One of the ongoing challenges is people so often and so regularly mistaking a financially motivated program to sell T-shirts as a foreign government influence.”

Hot button problems

There is often overlap between the two types of activity, both of which are deliberately misleading users with fake accounts and posting about “hot button” issues to build an audience, Facebook said in its report.

However, the networks blocked on Wednesday were primarily content-enhancement programs for financial gain, such as: For example, by using fake accounts to increase the number of followers or by repeatedly posting spam-like content on popular topics.

Facebook cited four examples of networks that were suspended between May and September this year and operated by unaffiliated groups from countries such as Botswana, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Macedonia and the Philippines.

A network from Albania has reported on US policy to get people to refer the following pages to clickbait websites that have generated money through advertising. A page on the network ran under the banner: “We need 1 million Trumpers to make America great again.”

In Myanmar, Facebook said it banned 655 pages and 12 groups covering celebrity gossip and local news in August and September in order to get clicks and views.

“A minority of posts from some of these networks and their ad-supported websites have focused on Myanmar politics, including military support and references to ethnic tensions,” Facebook said. “We haven’t seen any evidence that these networks are politically motivated.”

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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