Internet companies have a long way to go before they are capable of stopping any foreign meddling in the future US elections.
Changes were carried out by Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and other technology companies would not prevent the tactics revealed Feb 16 by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller's review of Russian operatives – let alone any new hacks.
An indictment issued by Mueller said at least 13th of June. They are posed as US citizens, using falsified paperwork and stolen bank numbers, to hide their real identities and opened PayPal Holdings Inc accounts to buy ads on popular social media sites.
The narrative is laid out by Mueller as well as more advanced Russian-backed misinformation effort than previously known. Until now, Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for missing US election ads through their systems. PayPal had not featured in public until Friday.
The identity theft detailed in the indictment is tougher than the problems these companies have so far tried to solve. Facebook is boosting its security-focused workforce and adding transparency for who purchases ads. Twitter is creating a “transparency center” on political campaign ad spending, too. Alphabet Inc's YouTube is hiring thousands of people to vet videos. Use of stolen identities and bank accounts to buy divisive ads and create misleading posts.
PayPal is a pioneer in online identity and fraud detection. And yet, it's digital payments, was made in the United States dollars.
The Russians' approach raises the question of whether other parties have bought – or will buy – ads using stolen identities. It also undermines the main value of social media business models: That people are who they say they are. Facebook and Twitter sell ads to automated systems where brands can get to reach certain audiences, and find out how many people they reached. Friday's indictment shows how this system can be easily gamed, and highlights the risk that even more can not be faked, eroding trust in those metrics.
Meanwhile, as long as social media platforms work the way they do, by making it easy to pay to spread incendiary messages, it's hard to see this problem going away, said Zeynep Tufekci, an information sciences professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“They used the platforms as they were designed,” Tufekci wrote on Twitter from a verified account. “All the problems most of the problems are with the US”.
The indictment is also described as the Russian operatives used online distribution and marketing tactics that were as easy as any legitimate social media campaign. The operatives worked in shifts to ensure they were made in accordance with the indictment. They were also correctly estimated and received on American television.
The indictment has already renewed calls to regulate social media. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said Mueller's investigation shows Russia was using online ads to wage an “information war” against the US and Congress.
“We do not have time to wait. If the Congress continues to refuse to act, we are aiding Russia's efforts to divide and influence our nation-inaction is unacceptable, “Klobuchar said in an emailed statement. She is a co-sponsor of the Honest Ads Act, which would regulate online election ads.
Next month, the Federal Election Commission will also consider a proposal to require online political ads to carry the same disclaimers from sponsors as radio, television and print ads.
“Facebook is working closely with the FBI, the Department of Homeland, Security and other companies on better ways to protect the US, the FBI has a task force on the election interference, and Facebook is actively working with the agency, Kaplan also said.
Ahead of midterm elections in the US later this year, Twitter said it's verifying major party candidates for all state and federal elective offices, as well as major national party accounts, as well as “hedge against impersonation.” malicious bots, targeting election-related matters, while monitoring trends and spikes in conversations about the 2018 elections to spot potential manipulation.
“Tech companies can not defeat t his novel, shared threat alone, “Twitter said in a statement. “The best approach is to increase our collective knowledge, with the full weight of government and law enforcement”. – Bloomberg