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Facebook reveals Russia and Iran plot to meddle in 2020 US election

By Yana Berman

Four campaigns involved multiple accounts on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook has unveiled four social media campaigns in Russia and Iran reportedly targeting the US 2020 presidential election. One is said to be linked to a so-called Russian troll agency.

According to a report published by Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, one of the campaigns involves a network of accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, which had previously meddled in the 2016 election. Gleicher says its masterminds "took consistent operational security steps to conceal their identity and location."

Graphika, a social network analysis company which prepares the report for Facebook, says there were 50 Instagram accounts and one Facebook account with about 246,000 followers. They reportedly had different political identities, taking pro-Donald Trump, anti-police violence and feminist positions to mimick a political debate.

Other accounts also tried to polarise political issues. Before participating in such threads, they tried to assimilate with authentic American accounts by posting specific content.

Other three influencer campaigns unveiled by Facebook were based in Iran, with some of them targeting the US and Francophone north Africa.

Facebook also announced new measures to increase transparency in the wake of the upcoming election. The social media corporation is tightening the rules for disclosing who controls a page. Moreover, posts from state-controlled media or the posts rated false by its fact-checking app will be labelled.

In addition, Facebook will remove political ads that urge people not to vote, including those that claim voting is useless. However, politicians will still be allowed to launch ads.

During the US 2016 presidential election, a Russian troll agency actively used Facebook to spread fake news and sow discord in the country. The agency behind the campaign reportedly had a monthly budget of more than $1.25m (£970,000).

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