Facebook has been used by governments as well as non-state actors to "manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," including in the run-up to the latest U.S. and French presidential elections, the company acknowledged in a white paper published Thursday.
"While sometimes the goal of these negative amplifying efforts is to push a specific narrative," the paper explains, "the underlying intent and motivation of the coordinators and sponsors of this kind of activity can be more complex." For example, some fake accounts "may not have a topical focus, but rather seek to undermine the status quo of political or civil society institutions on a more strategic level." Others engaged "with the apparent intent of increasing tensions between supporters of [political] groups and fracturing their supportive base."
Facebook intends to crack down on these "information operations" — propaganda, basically — both in technological advances that make fake accounts easier to eliminate, and in community education, attempting to train the public to better recognize illicit government manipulation.