In the News · Press Release

ICYMI: More Action from Facebook to Remove Fake Veterans Pages Following E&C #ZuckerbergHearing


04.14.18

WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spurred further action from the company, this time with the removal of nine Facebook pages created by foreign entities that imitate veterans organizations. BuzzFeed News first reported on the fake pages and their consequent removal.

Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) raised the issue of the fake pages, brought to his attention by the Vietnam Veterans of America, during the hearing and announced he would follow-up with Mr. Zuckerberg in writing.

Earlier this week, Facebook took action against illegal online pharmacy ads after Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) pushed Mr. Zuckerberg to ban them from the platform.

See below for an excerpt from BuzzFeed News, or click here to read the full article online.

Fake Facebook Pages Are Targeting US Military Veterans

During Mark Zuckerberg’s second day of congressional testimony on data privacy, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican, ran out of time to ask a question. What Walden would have asked touched on fake veteran Facebook pages — a concern the Vietnam Veterans of America raised with him earlier.

At issue are foreign entities creating pages and websites targeted at veterans, something Kristofer Goldsmith, a top official at the congressionally recognized nonprofit, has been tracking since August of last year. In a report sent to Congress, various federal agencies, and special counsel Robert Mueller, the group raised concerns about fake pages trying to pass themselves off as VVA.

Zuckerberg did not have time to respond during the hearing, but it is likely his team will still have to address the issue with Walden. Elena Hernandez, a spokesperson for the Committee on Energy and Commerce, said VVA sent “troubling examples of foreign entities imitating veterans organizations” to Walden and he will submit a written follow-up question to Facebook.

“I feel a responsibility to 80,000 Vietnam vets who are members of the VVA,” said Goldsmith, whose report, using website registration information, tracked fake pages to a man in Bulgaria.

Most VVA members are seniors, and some of Goldsmith’s time goes to translating technology for a generation that did not grow up with it. It’s that vulnerability that worries him about the fake sites.

“It’s impossible to educate them all on the internet. What I want is a safe environment,” Goldsmith said. “I want for Facebook’s algorithms to detect this kind of thing where they’re drawing out information that could be used to steal identities. Our population is extremely vulnerable to that type of thing.”

Goldsmith initially came across a page pretending to be the VVA in August 2017 — by searching for the real thing on Facebook. He noticed the page, which has since been removed, had about a quarter of a million members, almost double the official page’s 130,000. Some of his Facebook friends liked the fake page, which to Goldsmith meant that members were probably falling for it.

After BuzzFeed News showed one fake VVA page to Facebook, the company disabled it and eight other associated pages for being “inauthentic.”

“We rely on a combination of automated detection systems, as well as reports from the community, to help identify suspicious activity on the platform and ensure compliance with our policies,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. …

Click here to read the full article online.

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