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CIA-Backed Firm Tipped Off Facebook to ‘Inauthentic’ Accounts

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Facebook - Sputnik International
Facebook removed 652 pages, groups and accounts on Tuesday for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” after it was tipped off to the accounts by FireEye, a cybersecurity firm bankrolled by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Unlike Facebook's last round of bans, the company has a attributed the operators of the newly removed accounts to the usual scapegoats: Russia and Iran.

"These were distinct campaigns, and we have not identified any links or coordination between them," the company said.

​Twitter quickly followed suit. "Working with our industry peers today, we have suspended 284 accounts from Twitter for engaging in coordinated manipulation," Twitter said in a Tuesday statement. "Based on our existing analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran."

"The thing that strikes me the most is that it's so convenient, that all of these pages that Facebook has been taking down and that Twitter has been limiting, are all somehow related — or they say they're related — to governments or movements or news sources that aren't very friendly to the United States or that the United States government wants to overthrow," web developer and technologist Chris Garaffa told Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary.

"Russia. Iran. TeleSur. Venezuela Analysis. There was a Haitian liberation page that was taken down last week on Facebook as well."

"You don't see any German pages, you don't see any British pages coming down, even if they are doing some sort of sketchy activity," Garaffa added.

According to Facebook's head of Cybersecurity Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, the social media giant got a tip from FireEye, a cybersecurity firm that has received venture capital funding by the CIA since 2009. In a statement, the CIA's investment arm said it will maintain a "strategic partnership" with FireEye, calling it a "critical addition to our strategic investment portfolio for security technologies."

The CIA's venture capital arm is known as In-Q-Tel, which describes itself as a "not-for-profit strategic investor" on its website.

The company was one of the few cyber firms to forensically analyze the alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee. A spokesman for the firm told Defense One that the hackers "wanted experts and policymakers to know that Russia is behind it."

In March 2017, FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia, a former Air Force cyber crimes investigator, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the company was able to attribute the blame to Russia based off of "deduction" and "process of elimination."

One part of the network FireEye identified to Facebook was a page called Quest 4 Truth. According to Gleicher, it "claims to be an independent Iranian media organization, but is in fact linked to Press TV, an English-language news network affiliated with Iranian state media." 

Facebook removed the page of TeleSur English, an English language media outlet primarily funded by Venezuela, August 13, the second time this year it has done so. - Sputnik International
‘The Power to Curate Our Reality’: Facebook Censors TeleSur, Independent Media

"We're still investigating, and we have shared what we know with the US and UK governments," Gleicher wrote. "Since there are US sanctions involving Iran, we've also briefed the US Treasury and State Departments."

"The social media companies are by and large American companies, and they want to be in favor with the US government," Garaffa told By Any Means Necessary hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon. "They will do the bidding of the US government when it comes to data collection [and] when it comes to taking down pages that are not acceptable."

"It's a huge PR weapon that the American government has that almost no one else does," he added.

The investigation came in three parts, according to Facebook. The first netted 74 Facebook pages, 70 accounts, three groups and 76 accounts on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Some $6,000 was spent on ads on the platforms, and three events were created.

The second stage included 12 Facebook pages, 66 Facebook accounts and nine Instagram accounts. No money was spent on advertising, and none of the pages had associated events.

The third part of the investigation found 168 Facebook pages, 140 Facebook accounts and 31 Instagram accounts; 25 events were created, and more than $6,000 was spent on ads.

According to Facebook, many of the pages masqueraded as news organizations. Some real news organizations have reported that the accounts were seeking to influence the US midterm elections, but in reality, Facebook just said one of the account groups was discovered as the company stepped up investigation efforts ahead of the midterms.

"Finally, we've removed pages, groups and accounts that can be linked to sources the US government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services," the company said. "This more recent activity focused on politics in Syria and Ukraine. For example, they are associated with Inside Syria Media Center, which the Atlantic Council and other organizations have identified for covertly spreading pro-Russian and pro-Assad content."

Facebook has partnered with the Digital Forensics Research Lab to combat so-called fake news. It's worth noting DFL is an arm of the neoconservative Atlantic Council think tank, which is primarily funded by NATO, Gulf monarchies and the US defense industry. 

Moscow Kremlin - Sputnik International
Kremlin Calls Facebook's Claims Of Russia's Alleged Interference Unsubstantiated

"The shuttering of progressive media amidst the ‘fake news' and Russiagate hysteria is what activists been warning all along — tech companies, working in concert with think tanks stacked with CIA officials and defense contractors, shouldn't have the power to curate our reality to make those already rendered invisible even more obsolete," Abby Martin, host of "The Empire Files" on TeleSur English, told Sputnik News after Facebook temporarily unpublished the TeleSur English page. "The Empire Files" announced on Wednesday that they were forced to shut down because of US sanctions.

"The Atlantic Council is like a who's who of the extremely wealthy and NATO countries and allies," Garaffa said. Since the "content moderation" partnership, there's been a "massive uptick in removing of any content that goes against the mass media, US propaganda line."

"So they have this unprecedented control over the narrative and the information that we can see, and these are private companies, but ultimately because of their relationship with the state, they are serving the interests of the state, and the state is actually serving to protect these companies' interests as well."

Facebook's last round of bans came on July 31. That time, the company made no attempt to publicly identify who was behind the "bad actors" on their platform, but said that activity displayed by them was consistent with previously identified activity from the allegedly Kremlin-run troll farm the Internet Research Agency.

That ban included 32 pages and accounts and the main counter-protest to the Unite the Right 2.0 rally held in Washington, DC on August 12 — the one-year anniversary to the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, protest. One of the six administrators on the account supposedly displayed inauthentic activity. The other five were totally legitimate, the company admitted.

The bans on Tuesday follow a long line of similar ones issued by the company since the 2016 election. The company banned 470 supposedly fake Russian accounts in September 2017; then, on April 3, Facebook banned 70 Facebook accounts, 65 Instagram accounts and 138 Facebook pages allegedly controlled by the Internet Research Agency.

Garaffa underscored the power social media giants wield, as they're relied on "much more now than most people did on television or newspaper news, because the stream is always on. You're not picking up the morning edition of the paper, you're looking at what happened in the last five minutes."

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