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    The US State Department has welcomed Facebook's decision to ban accounts allegedly engaged in the coordinated inauthentic behavior. In a statement on Wednesday, the State Department said that the removed Facebook pages were part of a broader external campaign aimed at weakening the US.

    Sputnik discussed the issue with David Glance, Director of the UWA Centre for Software Practice, University of Western Australia.

    Sputnik: What do you make of Facebook’s announcement about the removal of the accounts considering that according to Facebook ‘the investigation is still in its early stages’?

    David Glance: It’s an interesting revelation. The thirty two pages make it sound like this is some massive conspiracy. But when you look at the actual sites, they’re actually not that different from the usual groups that post these things. They don’t get very much attention. And the budgets that have been spent on the ads haven’t really been that extensive either, it’s $11 thousand on 150 ads.

    So the fact that it’s being built up as a major attempt to disrupt and sew or foment discord in the US public seems very extreme. Plus, there’s the fact that they’re commenting on attribution to various internet research agencies without presenting any evidence whatsoever. 

    I think this is really just Facebook trying to recover from all of the bad publicity that it has received with Senate inquiries and the UK with its investigations, and trying to redeem itself by showing that it’s actually proactively searching problems out.

    Sputnik: In your opinion, are posts on social networks able to sway people’s opinion and make them vote for this or that politician?

    David Glance: I think if you do it on a large scale then Facebook can certainly show that it is possible to influence the voter intentions, but you have to reach hundreds of thousands of people with carefully crafted messages. The sorts of things we’re seeing with the fake pages or claims of these fake pages being taken down are nothing like that.

    They’re just one group, for example, suggesting that fascism should be fought. There are the anti-fascist movements in the US, there’re plenty of groups that do this on a daily basis.

    The fact that they using VPNs and hide their tracks, these could be just ordinary people in the US or any other country for that matter just covering their tracks, but they’re not extreme and they’re not necessarily aimed at changing the ordinary citizens’ points of view, they’re aimed at specific groups.

    So it’s very curious that you could make that leap from Facebook or somebody, even the Russians doing this and having some objective in mind. It’s just not possible to understand how this would work.

    Sputnik: The US media and top officials have already pointed their finger in Russia’s direction even though Facebook never confirmed that the accounts were linked to Russia. What do you make of these allegations?

    David Glance: This is just a continuing dialogue or narrative that’s come out of the US. On the Democrats’ side this is really trying to build up a story that Russia is bad and that it’s influencing the US so that they can tie Trump to Russia and say how bad it all is from that perspective.

    And then the Republicans have a slightly more precarious situation because on the one hand they’re supporting Trump who is actually reasonably pro-Putin, but at the same time believing that there potentially is this interference and that they should be voicing their objections to that. So on the Republicans’ side it’s a bit confused, the Democrats are still trying to build up a story that there has been all of this interference.

    And the problem is that we really haven’t seen a huge amount of evidence and the fact that they’re willing to leap to these conclusions on no evidence really and start attributing is premature at best.

    Sputnik: How likely is this development to heighten tensions between Washington and Moscow in view of the upcoming mid-term elections in the United States?

    David Glance: This is really thirty two pages with a very small number of posts which are largely non-contentious because they’re essentially appealing to potential ends of the spectrum in terms of politics.

    They’re not aimed at the general public, the general center-right or center-left, so their effect and impact would be absolutely minimal at the moment, with tiny budgets.

    So, I would imagine that this is really just the press continue a narrative along with various political parties trying to back political knowledge out of it.

    The views and opinions expressed by David Glance do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

     

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    Tags:
    investigation, influence, voters, negative impact, publicity, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, David Glance, United States
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