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The Drum

Facebook admits foreign 'bad actors' are circumventing political ad controls

Facebook admits Russian actors are circumventing political ad controls

Facebook has cautioned that a raft of tough new controls on political advertising, implemented in an attempt to regain control over the sector, are already being circumvented by foreign powers.

A developing arms race between the social media giant and state actors is seeing those with nefarious intentions flout newly imposed controls by employing people locally to front their interests, invalidating the chief new measure requiring anyone taking out proscribed advertising to be resident in the country in which the campaign is to be run.

The warning was made during Facebook's annual F8 conference last week, by Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity. He noted how the social network had reported incidences of bad actors recruiting people to circumvent these checks in countries where they are seeking to maintain a political presence.

Gleicher said: “We found two separate, unconnected operations that originated in Russia and used similar tactics, creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.”

Such deceptions have prompted a series of takedowns with 97 Ukraine-based accounts, pages and groups having been removed for seeking to spread false information on topics such as Syria, Russian politics and Crimea.

A further 21 accounts focusing on Austria, the Baltic states, Germany, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom were also closed.

Prior purges saw 289 pages sponsored by Kremlin-backed media brand Sputnik removed.