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Facebook cracks down on bogus ‘likes’ and zombie accounts in battle against fake news

BY PATRICK KULP
17 HOURS AGO
News isn’t the only thing that’s sometimes fake on Facebook.

The social network said Friday it has shut down a massive spam operation that generated thousands of “inauthentic likes” on publisher pages.

SEE ALSO: Facebook is cracking down on hoaxes in your News Feed

The announcement comes days after the company claimed to have deleted 30,000 fraudulent accounts in France ahead of the country’s presidential election.

The scam targeted in the more recent crackdown operated at a more sophisticated level than the French network, according to Facebook’s security team.

The fraudsters used various technical tricks to mimic human behavior, like running traffic through proxies to create the impression that the accounts were spread across Asia and the Middle East instead of a centralized data center.

The company said it’s been investigating this particular scheme for six months.

The fraudsters’ apparent intent was to dole out comments and likes on the pages of popular media outlets in hopes of friending users. The bots would then flood those “friends” with spam.

Facebook doesn’t think they ever got that far. The behavior of the accounts suggests they had yet to enter their friending and spamming phase, it said.

The company is still in the process of scrubbing all the illegitimate likes, but it assured publishers that 99 percent of pages with more than 10,000 likes would likely see a dip of no more than 3 percent.

The effort is tied to Facebook’s ongoing battle with the wave of fake news that’s contaminated the site. The problem has put the company and other big online platforms under increased media scrutiny since last November’s presidential election.

Fake news purveyors are known to use ghost accounts and bot traffic to juice their numbers for advertisers.

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