Facebook will treat coordinated rule breakers using real accounts like troll farms

FILE PHOTO - A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS-Dado Ruvic-Illustration-File Photo

Facebook is expanding its playbook for tackling “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” to cover similar campaigns that don’t involve impersonation. Reuters first reported the new policy, which Facebook apparently says is in its early stages. Practically speaking, it means moderators can take broader actions than banning individual accounts or posts when they break hard rules, aiming to stop coordinated attempts to harass users or get them banned.

As Reuters points out, Facebook acknowledged in January that its coordinated inauthentic behaviour (or CIB) rules had limits. “We have little policy around coordinated authentic harm,” an internal report published by BuzzFeedadmitted, referring to the Stop the Steal campaign to overturn the US presidential election. “What do we do when a movement is authentic, coordinated through grassroots or authentic means, but is inherently harmful and violates the spirit of our policy?” The report suggested things like adding “friction” to the growth of movements like Stop the Steal — ultimately, it ended up banning the phrase from Facebook and Instagram.

The exact implications of this change aren’t clear. Reuters cites two types of incidents where Facebook might target “groups of coordinated real accounts that systemically break its rules”: mass reporting, where people falsely report another user for policy violations, and brigading, or a coordinated campaign to target someone for harassment. Some of these incidents could involve state-sponsored groups that are similar to government-backed “troll farms” but use participants’ real Facebook accounts. In theory, others could be independent — coordinated by political movements or groups of fans.

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