May.07

Inundated by spam Facebook accounts, USA Today has asked the FBI to investigate

Inundated by spam Facebook accounts, USA Today has asked the FBI to investigate

USA Today’s Facebook page is being inundated with likes from fake accounts, and its parent company, Gannett Co., has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate. Before a purge of such accounts last month, USA Today contends that spam accounts made up a significant percentage of the publication’s followers on the social media platform.

While the social media company recently stepped up its efforts to combat fake accounts by purging millions of fake accounts in April, Gannett has gone to the FBI, saying that it remains a target of these types of spam efforts. It’s not immediately clear if the agency will investigate. While fake accounts violate Facebook’s Terms of Service, doing so isn’t a crime, but the company notes that these types of accounts “risks damaging a publisher’s brand.”

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Facebook told USA Today on Friday that it had “detected additional suspicious activity since its April fake-account crackdown,” and that it is working to take action against them. The media company says that it has taken steps to block such accounts by deploying software to delete spam accounts, and has barring new followers from Bangladesh, where some of the spam activity has originated. According to the paper, there’s no “no indication of a security risk to legitimate followers” of its Facebook page.

Gannett claims that Facebook’s purge of fake accounts in April “included more than a third of USA Today’s approximately 15.2 million Facebook ‘likes’ at the time,” and Facebook informed the company that it could purge an additional three million accounts soon. The page currently has 9.5 million likes on Facebook, and the company has seen no dip in referrals since the fake accounts were purged.

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In April, Facebook announced that it shut down a network of spam accounts as part of a larger campaign to shut down fake accounts. This network created what Facebook called “inauthentic accounts”, which in turn liked publisher pages, with the intention of spreading spam to users or distributed false information. USA Today says that it’s not sure why it’s been singled out by spammers, but it notes that media pages are frequently targeted because they post more often, allowing spammers to quickly build up a profile that looks more like a legitimate account.

We’ve reached out to the FBI, Facebook, and USA Today for comment, and will update this post if we hear back.

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