Facebook said Friday that the social network hasn’t found evidence of foreign interference in US protests that have erupted over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Nathaniel Gleicher, who heads cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said that the company has been “actively looking” for interference by foreign actors and domestic “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” That’s when a network of fake accounts mislead others about their identity and purpose. Gleicher said the company hasn’t found any evidence of foreign interference or coordinated inauthentic behavior and cautioned people from jumping to conclusions.
“We know that one goal of influence operations is to make their perpetrators look more powerful than they are. Speculation like this plays right into the hands of these bad actors. It can make us distrust each other and delegitimize authentic advocacy and political organizing, which are essential pillars of democracy,” he said.
Gleicher didn’t name any specific people who were speculating about foreign interference, but his remarks came a day after US Attorney General William Barr said that the federal government is seeing “foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.” When asked about Barr’s remarks, Gleicher said that Facebook has been in touch with its government partners but reiterated that the company still hasn’t found any evidence of foreign interference.
Facebook has taken down pages and accounts from far-right groups Proud Boys and American Guard that were discussing bringing weapons to peaceful protests. Brian Fishman, who oversees Facebook’s dangerous organizations and individuals policy, said the company uses a tactic that helps them remove accounts tied to pages and groups that have been previously banned from the social network like the two groups.
“We did expedite those removals because we thought we saw evidence that they were organizing around the protests,” he said. Fishman didn’t have an exact number of how many accounts Facebook removed from the far-right groups but said it was tens of accounts in each network.
People in the US have also used multiple fake social media accounts to pose as members of an anti-fascist protest movement called Antifa. Facebook said it removed a “handful” of “largely dormant” fake accounts and pages tied to a fake Antifa account run by white supremacists calling for violence that Twitter pulled down on Monday. Gleicher said that users might create fake multiple accounts and hold them for use in the future but the accounts the company took weren’t used a lot.
“We’ve only seen isolated examples. We will continue to monitor, and we’ll take action as we find violations,” Gleicher said.
On Friday, Facebook also said that it pulled down 1,364 fake Facebook accounts, pages, groups and Instagram accounts in April that originated in Iraq and Tunisia. Some of these accounts posed as locals, news outlets or politicians.