Facebook bans 'The BL' for coordinated inauthentic behavior

Last Friday, Facebook banned “The Beauty of Life” (The BL), a
US-based media company that Facebook linked to Epoch Media Group,
for engaging in large-scale inauthentic behavior, according to a
company blog
post
. Along with the ban, Facebook said that it took down over
900 fake accounts, pages, and groups across Facebook and Instagram
run out of the network.

Social Media Platforms Are Easy to Manipulate

Epoch Media Group is the parent company of the conservative news
outlet The Epoch Times, which had been the largest buyer of
pro-Trump ads on Facebook until August, when Facebook banned the
publisher from buying ads for repeated violations of Facebook
political ad policies. The network had also spent $9.5 million on
Facebook ads intended to drive users to The BL.

Coordinated inauthentic behavior is a distinct phenomenon from
disinformation. Notably, The BL was banned for coordinated
inauthentic behavior
 (CIB), defined by Facebook as “when
groups of people or pages work together to mislead others about who
they are or what they’re doing,” and which includes
explicit behaviors like
using fake accounts that misrepresent one’s identity or using
methods to artificially boost the popularity of content.

Such activity runs counter to Facebook’s policies, even if the
content that individual accounts are sharing doesn’t explicitly
violate Facebook’s community standards. In fact, “most of the
content shared by coordinated manipulation campaigns isn’t provably
false,” per a Facebook blog post by
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy. Facebook
updated its policy on inauthentic behavior in October, after
removing more than 100 accounts out of Russia and Iran, and said
that the company would be releasing a regular CIB report in coming
months detailing its enforcement actions. 

Instances of coordinated inauthentic behavior are likely to grow
more frequent in the coming year as new machine learning and AI
tools make these efforts easier to scale. The fake accounts in the
network had fake photos generated by AI, using generative
adversarial networks, which can teach themselves to create
realistic images of faces, according to a
Facebook-commissioned report from
social analytics firm Graphika.

While the use of AI tools doesn’t necessarily make coordinated
inauthentic behavior harder for Facebook’s own AI to detect, it
will likely allow it to proliferate. In 2019, Facebook has taken
down more than 50 networks worldwide for engaging in CIB, per a
company blog
post
 in October. But that figure is likely to grow in 2020,
particularly in the months leading up to the US presidential
election. 

As CIB gets more scalable, Facebook and other platforms will
struggle to investigate and enforce this behavior in a timely and
efficient way. Facebook’s response to this instance of CIB
indicates that social platforms will encounter mounting problems
and scrutiny around timely enforcement: It took Facebook five
months to complete its investigation of The BL before taking
action, despite having been notified months earlier by the
fact-checking organization Snopes, which ended its
fact-checking partnership with the social company in Feburary.

For its part, Snopes had reported about The BL’s activity in
articles posted in OctoberNovember,
and earlier this month.
Social platforms are still quite bad at enforcement on fake
accounts: Across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, more
than 95% of fake accounts remained active three weeks after they
were reported as fake, according to a recent NATO
report
 in which researchers tracked nearly 19,000 accounts
used to deliver manipulative content.

US regulators will likely hone in on CIB on social networks,
particularly that which stems from foreign actors, since this
activity was found to be an influential factor ahead of the 2016
presidential election. And if social platforms don’t improve their
enforcement response time, regulation could take shape that seeks
to require platforms to detect and respond in a set time
period.

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Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News
Facebook bans 'The BL' for coordinated inauthentic behavior