The US Congress asked Facebook: What was the role of fake overseas accounts in promoting Canadian convoys?

This item is part of Watching Washington, a regular post from CBC News correspondents reporting on US politics and developments affecting Canadians.

What’s new

American politicians are demanding details from Facebook about how many fake online accounts were set up by foreign actors who helped promote the Canadian convoy’s protests.

Chair of the most powerful investigative body in the US House of Representatives this week send a letter to company founder Mark Zuckerberg seek information about inauthentic activity.

New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney asked Zuckerberg nine questions about the extent to which fake accounts from overseas helped organizers spread the word.

The questions include, how many fake accounts Facebook has identified as linked to the “Freedom Convoy”; when it is determined that it is fake; how many people viewed the content; which country it is from; in which country it is spread; and how much money Facebook makes from related ads.

What is the context?

The letter states the alarm has ended reported that Facebook has have found that some groups promoting convoys have been created by fake user profiles, set up in content fields in Vietnam, Bangladesh and Romania.

He identified Russians in the past using fake social media profiles to spread content that polarized Americans, a practice described in a chapter of mueller report into the 2016 US election meddling.

“These reports are particularly worrying given Facebook’s history of amplifying toxic content, extremism, and disinformation, including from Russian and other foreign actors,” Maloney, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform committee, wrote in a letter dated February 14.

VIEW | Convoy protesters manipulated by foreign agents, say cybersecurity expert:

Convoy protesters manipulated by foreign agents, says cybersecurity expert

Protests in support of the truck convoy in Ottawa were held across the region, and cybersecurity expert David Shipley believes those involved were directed by foreign agents. 3:39

“Utilizing fake, stolen or inauthentic accounts has become a common technique by those promoting disinformation campaigns and social engineering efforts, especially foreign entities.

“Russia operated Facebook accounts and pages to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election, including using stolen American identities. These Russian-operated accounts and pages had their content shared hundreds of millions of times in the run-up to the election.”

A former State and Defense Department official under George W. Bush, Kristofer Harrison, said in an interview that Russia uses dummy profiles to promote all manner of polarizing content across the political spectrum, from Black Lives Matter and defunding police to supremacy. whites and yellow vest protests.

“They just want the loudest chaos,” said Harrison, a Russia analyst.

Police officers ride horses beside the Rideau Center amid continuing protests in Ottawa on Friday. The protests have lots of real life, human support, closer to home, attracts record crowdfunding donations from Canada and the US (Blair Gable/Reuters)

What’s next

There is no evidence of Russian involvement in Canada. Or any country actor involved in promoting a convoy protest, which ends up receiving record-breaking donations from thousands of real people, mainly in Canada and the US.

Facebook told NBC News earlier this month that it had removed several pro-convoy groups run by foreign actors. They did not say how many and from where.

We can know more if Facebook responds to questions from the US Democratic Congress, and both sides express hope of cooperation.

The committee is confident that Facebook will provide the information, one of the Washington sources said. Facebook, meanwhile, confirmed to CBC News that it had received the letter and would respond in writing.

The social media giant said it was also looking forward to meeting committee staff to answer their questions and provide updates on the matter.

Jackson Wintringham

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