Malicious actors on Facebook harness political and social issues for profit

Spam groups being operated out of developing Asian countries such as Bangladesh, 지노사이트 Cambodia and Myanmar are using Facebook to profit from events such as the Black Lives Matter protests, the upcoming US presidential election and ethnic tensions in Myanmar, among others. The bad actors have been using clickbait related to social issues and politics throughout 2020 to drive Facebook users to fraudulent websites that generate profit from ads or merchandise. Facebook revealed the activity in a new report on “inauthentic behaviour” on its platforms. In the report, published Wednesday (October 21), Facebook said “inauthentic behaviour” (IB) is often financially motivated, as opposed to “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” (CIB) which is usually designed to manipulate public debate for a strategic goal. While Facebook has focused a lot of its efforts on CIB as “the most egregious form of IB”, it wants to publicise its efforts against other forms of IB to “advance the public’s understanding” of “gray areas where harm and deception aren’t as clear cut”. This behaviour is often less sophisticated than operations run by fraudulent networks which have more nefarious intentions. Where CIB networks leverage a collection of fake accounts to spoof identity, IB activity primarily uses legitimate accounts to amplify and increase the distribution of content, Facebook said. The activity can sometimes involve the use of fake accounts or other inauthentic assets, “but we typically see little attempt to obfuscate their identity from Facebook and only the most superficial attempts to construct a false identity”, the social network wrote. Much of the spam activity originates in countries with “cottage industries specialised in propagating deceptive schemes to exploit internet platforms”, Facebook said. That includes Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as European markets such as Albania and Macedonia. Bad actors behind IB are primarily driven by financial motivation, Facebook said, with much of the activity focused on driving people to off-platform websites filled with ads or merchandise. These websites may pretend to support a cause or be part of the same community as their target audience in order to convince users to separate with cash. To facilitate this, the actors mislead people or Facebook about the popularity of content, the purpose of a community (i.e. Groups, Pages, Events), or the identity of the people behind it. One such method is called “abusive audience building”, in which a Facebook Page switches identity and repeatedly changes its name to the latest trending topics and shares viral clickbait in order to build an audience.

In May and June, Facebook took down 4 pages and 13 groups attempting to build audiences by posting viral content around the Black Lives Matter protests. In these particular cases, the spam actors leveraged topics including racial and social injustice and police brutality in the US to trick people into joining their groups and following their pages, and then directed them to ad farms or merchandise stores.

In May and June, Facebook took down 4 pages and 13 groups attempting to build audiences by posting viral content around the Black Lives Matter protests. In these particular cases, the spam actors leveraged topics including racial and social injustice and police brutality in the US to trick people into joining their groups and following their pages, and then directed them to ad farms or merchandise stores.

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