Coordinated campaign to influence voters over social media
The mission was two-fold: to sow discord and division, spreading false information, and to plan real events like a counter-protest at next week’s Unite the Right rally in Washington.
Facebook says it’s removed 32 fake pages and accounts with names like "Black Elevation," "Mindful being," "Aztlan Warriors" and "Resisters." They had a combined 290,000 followers.
"There is a massive, sophisticated, persistent campaign on multiple fronts to misinform, divide and ultimately manipulate the American people," said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, in an open Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday.
Last year, a Pew Research Poll found one of the top places people get online news is through social media. Now, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for more action to be taken.
"When people lose confidence in their government that the No. 1 responsibility of the government is to protect the American people, obviously, it could directly affect national security," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
"Clearly, the technology companies have done a lousy job in terms of policing those platforms," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
In a statement, Facebook said it’s working "to reduce the spread of false news, we remove fake accounts and disrupt economic incentives for traffickers of misinformation."
It added: "We also want to empower people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share."
While we’ve known for a while now the disinformation campaign is widespread, what’s far less certain is the extent of the impact these coordinated efforts have on actual elections.
The Trump administration and others insist there’s no evidence of a direct impact.
"Although no actual votes were changed in 2016, let me be clear in this: any attempt to interfere in our elections is a direct attack on our democracy,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday.