Facebook tackles harmful authentic accounts with new approach – CNET

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Facebook has faced criticism for not doing enough to combat misinformation.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Facebook said Thursday it’s taking a tougher approach against groups of accounts from real users who work together to cause harm.

The social network already has rules against posting harmful content such as hate speech, harassment and harmful COVID-19 misinformation. But sometimes this type of content is spread by a group of tightly organized accounts not just an individual. While Facebook also has rules barring dangerous organizations such as terrorist organizations, not all groups fall under that policy. 

Facebook’s security team routinely takes action against fake accounts that mislead others about their purpose and identity. That team is now going to crack down on groups that attempt to evade enforcement by using real accounts to spread harm. The tech company might reduce the reach of content from these accounts or pull down these authentic accounts, Pages and Groups. 

This new effort could make it easier for Facebook, which routinely faces criticism that it’s not doing enough to combat misinformation and hate speech, to remove harmful accounts more swiftly. But the company could also encounter more backlash from conservatives or other groups that accuse Facebook of intentionally censoring political speech, allegations the social network denies.

“We recognize this challenge is complex. We need to be careful and deliberate when tackling coordinated efforts by authentic users in order to distinguish between people who organically come together to organize for social change and the types of adversarial networks that can cause digital harm,” said David Agranovich, director of threat disruption, at a press conference. 

Agranovich said the company is looking at “technical signals” that would indicate accounts are tightly organizing to spread harm and this evidence is “deeper” than just the repeated posting of content. 

The social network, for example, removed a group of accounts, Pages and Groups from Facebook and Instagram tied to the Querdenken movement in Germany. The group used authentic accounts to post content including a conspiracy theory that the German government’s COVID-19 restrictions was part of a larger plot to strip people of their freedoms and basic rights. It also repeatedly violated the company’s community standards.

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