Facebook releases threat report on influence operations from 2017 to 2021

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Facebook has launched today a 44-page report on coordinated networks and influence operations it has detected since 2017. It all began after the Cambridge Analytica incident and interference of Russia in elections

The Threat Report on Influence Operations summarizes its scope on this front. It outlines Facebook’s actions to remove nefarious activities. 

“…from 2017 through mid-2021, we have taken down and publicly reported on over 150 covert influence operations that violated our policy against Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (“CIB”). They originated from over 50 countries worldwide and targeted both foreign and domestic public debate,” says Facebook.

facebook influence operations report

The full outline has more context on these campaigns. It includes audience focus and how it changed with time.

facebook influence operations report

Operations have become more fenced. Groups are increasingly using Facebook and Instagram to manipulate politics.

Scaling down

In 2017, the activities focused on foreign campaigns. It means the awareness of how they can use Facebook for such purposes has scaled down into smaller pushes. And the larger, noticeable foreign influence campaigns have dropped from last year.

Facebook’s findings points to Russia as the top originator of foreign influence campaigns.

The IRA or Internet Research Agency of Russia has been linked to online influence operations, and not only Facebook. It has become the leading example of using social media for these activities.

Facebook has facilitated the angst in smaller regions, such as Myanmar. It has  been linked to political misinformation and influence efforts in the Asian country.

A major concern in regions currently in their first wave of digital transformation is that Facebook turns into their main source of news—true or false.

It may blow out of proportions with its massive influence on community beliefs and behaviors, due to its size and adoption rate.

Nations have raised concerns about Facebook’s availability to their electorate. They have seen the damage and divisive impact the social network has done in other regions.

The Free Basics internet access program of Facebook has been met with opposition from governments.  These governments are incapable of providing internet access to all their people. But their concerns around the potential risks of Facebook access has tied their hands up.

Upholding the law

Some governments simply have information restriction policies and regulations in place.

“We anticipate seeing more local actors worldwide attempt to use IO tactics to influence public debate in their own countries, further blurring the lines between authentic public debate and deception. In turn, technology platforms, traditional media and civil society will be faced with more challenging policy and enforcement choices,” says Facebook.   

Facebook touts its detection programs are better than before. It has found groups expanding focus to broader networks to avoid detection.

“By running operations on multiple platforms, threat actors are likely trying to ensure that their efforts survive enforcement by any given platform. They’ve also targeted hyper-local platforms (e.g. local blogs and newspapers), to reach specific audiences and to target public-facing spaces with less-resourced security systems,” adds Facebook.

Read the full report here.


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Author: Francis Rey

Francis is a voracious reader and prolific writer. He has been writing about social media and technology for more than 10 years. During off hours, he relishes moments with his wife and daughter.

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