As part of its fight against “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” Facebook is removing hundreds of spam accounts spreading clickbait to bring traffic to ad farms.
In late August Facebook took down a group of Pages, groups, and accounts – 254 Pages, 276 accounts, and 3 groups on Facebook, and 116 accounts on Instagram to be exact, which around 983,000 accounts followed. Over 2,300 accounts joined at least one of these groups, and more than 59,000 accounts followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.
Now, Facebook announced it is removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken its “rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
Facebook is waging war against what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior” so that users can be able to trust the connections they make on the platform. Its strict policy banning networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing, has had to be enforced many times this year.
As Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook explains, this year Facebook has had to enforce “this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate, including in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK.” However, “the bulk of the inauthentic activity” he explains “is spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics.” Until now, because today’s spam is different, he explains:
“The people behind it create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names. They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate but are actually ad farms. The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites.”
Fake accounts generate fake likes and shares, artificially inflating engagement, thus “misleading people about their popularity and improving their ranking in News Feed.” The most popular topics to generate clickbait have been topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip, but these networks are now starting (more and more often) “to use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site.” This activity seems often indistinguishable from genuine “politically motivated” discussion.
Many of the accounts used for this activity were “fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posting massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites.” Also, many used similar (or even the same) techniques to make content seem more popular, while others “were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”