Facebook, under fire for a huge data breach involving Cambridge Analytica, has finally taken steps to root out a Russian troll farm that was behind dozens of fake accounts on the social media site and the source of countless “fake news” items designed to sow dissent during the 2916 election.
Shockingly, the Russians protested! The nation that assassinates journalists had the audacity to decry the move as “censorship.”
Two new studies have concluded that a massive wave of “fake news” stories generated by Russian trolls during the 2016 election helped cause Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, who won by a mere 78,000 votes across three states.
Facebook said it had deleted 70 accounts and 128 Facebook pages that were being run by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency. In every instance, the troll accounts were posing as Americans and generating memes backing Trump and slamming Clinton.
In addition, 65 Instagram accounts were also deleted.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today (Apr. 4) in Moscow that the move amounted to censorship. “Yes it is,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “We are of course following this and we regret it,” according to Reuters.
Facebook also acknowledged yesterday that “malicious actors” took advantage of search tools on its platform to discover the identities and collect information on most of its 2 billion users worldwide, according to The Washington Post.
Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy hired by President Trump and other Republicans, improperly gathered detailed Facebook information on 87 million people, of whom 71 million were Americans. The information was used to help target voters with information tailored to their views and political affiliation.
Investigations into the data breach are underway in the the United States and Europe. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is slated to testify on Capitol Hill next week.
Meanwhile, a new study by Stanford University professors found that the most popular fake news stories were more widely shared on Facebook than the most popular mainstream news stories. The most discussed fake news stories tended to favor Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, it said.
“Our database contains 115 pro-Trump fake stories that were shared on Facebook a total of 30 million times, and 41 pro-Clinton fake stories shared a total of 7.6 million times,” the research paper notes.
Another study by researchers at Ohio State University found that fake news probably played a “significant” role in depressing Clinton’s support on Election Day.
The study suggests that about 4 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2012 supporters were swayed by fake news to vote against Clinton in 2016, while others chose not to vote at all.