Russian influence operations in Facebook and Twitter: official inquiry started

Social media accounts designed to disrupt US politics are “not having a lot of success”, according to Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy. Facebook and Twitter have deleted several accounts reported to be the part of a Russian-based influence operation centred around a pseudo media organisation called Peace Data.

Peace Data did not respond to an emailed request for comment and Russian officials were not immediately available after normal working hours in Moscow. Russia has previously denied U.S. allegations of trying to meddle in upcoming elections and says it does not interfere into the domestic politics of other countries.

However Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said his team acted on information provided by the FBI and some independent analytics – the accounts were suspended before they gathered a large online following.

“I think two of the most striking points about this network and this takedown are, we see these actors continuing to try to target public debate ahead of the US 2020 elections, and they’re not having a lot of success,” Mr Gleicher told Reuters.

It was also the aim to provide deep and careful analysis of Russian strategy in Facebook: “We know these actors will keep trying, but the encouraging news is seeing them try harder but have less impact is exactly the difficult situation we want to put them in.”

Investigators at Graphika social media analytics company observed the alleged Russian influence operation and said Peace Data predominately targeted progressive and left-wing groups in the United States and Britain. The report issued by Graphika showed that the Peace Data often “paid particular attention to racial and political tensions”, including civil rights protests and criticism of President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.

The general target of operation was boosting news about internal conflicts, violent clashes and riots all around the US to jeopardize American society, to make internal situation more unstable and unpredictable. In fact it was encouraging confrontation and committing crimes, it was attack against the keystones of the United States, and it just suited Russia.

For example, they opposed Big Oil, attacked Fox News (“the propaganda arm of the GOP”) and Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos (“Congress is scared. All businesses are scared. And you should be scared too”), condemned corporate industries (“a menace to the environment”), attacked the QAnon conspiracy and the Boogaloo movement, and wrote on systemic racism in the United States – right after murder of G.Floyd caused unbelievable and bloody riots in the US. A few articles attacked both Biden and Trump at once.

We believe that joint efforts of cybersecurities of Facebook, FBI and particular analytics have already neutralized the menace pseudo media Peace Data posed to the United States security. At the same time the launched investigation should be proceeded to identify the particular beneficiaries of Russian origin – it is highly important to guarantee free and democratic presidential election of the US president.

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