Skip to Content
Silicon Valley

Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts spewing political spam

October 12, 2018

The social network’s move comes just weeks before the US congressional midterm elections.
The news: In a blog post, Facebook said it had shut down 559 pages and 251 accounts in the US for violating its anti-spam rules. Some of them were often pumping out identical pieces of content, and the spammers were also using lots of fake profiles to hide the fact that their actions were coordinated. Some of the outfits targeted by Facebook were ad farms trying to drum up clicks by pretending they were forums for legitimate political debate. The company told the New York Times that this was the highest number of domestic pages and accounts related to influence campaigns it had ever shuttered.
Spam, spam … : Facebook didn’t publicly name any of the publishers and accounts it had purged, but papers such as the Washington Post cited several examples. Those included “Reverb Press,” a left-leaning publisher with more than 700,000 followers, whose posts used terms such as “political scumbags” to refer to Republicans. Another was “Nation in Distress,” a page with more than 3 million followers that claimed to be the first online publication to have endorsed President Trump.
… Russia and spam: Also removed were profiles and pages run by a Russian firm called Social Data Hub that has been scraping data about Facebook users. The company is still investigating the service, whose chief executive has reportedly compared it to Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the heart of a huge controversy earlier this year concerning the misuse of user data.
Political policing: Drawing the line between legitimate debate and fake news can be really hard, and even leading-edge artificial-intelligence tools struggle to tell the difference. So there’s a risk that critics will accuse Facebook of politically motivated censorship. But that’s a price worth paying given its apparent determination to prevent a replay of 2016, when the site was flooded by fake news ahead of the US presidential election. There’s still no guarantee Facebook will be able to prevent that from happening again, but at least this time around its leaders seem to be taking the threat seriously.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.