Facebook faces big challenge to prevent future U.S. election meddling

By David Ingram and Dustin Volz

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If Facebook doesn’t do better job of implementing a process to better recognize & filter out foreign propaganda and continue to haphazardly commoditize our private information & personal photos without fully notifying the users

Facebook will become tomorrow’s America Online, AIM, Myspace, Windows Messenger, Netscape, webcrawler, Lycos, explorer, Napster etc...

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It will be great when Facebook fizzles out. It will happen. Hopefully nothing as horrible rises in its wake.

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That'll be harder to do now that we find out how more sophisticated the trolls try to infiltrate Facebook

This is not your garden-variety trolls making up fake personas in the basement to try to illicit reactions on the Web

This is a sophisticated operation where they spent a lot of money and resources to actually buy real people's identities without their knowledge, set up VPN servers in the US, etc. and yes even criminal - stealing real people's SSNs, opening financial accounts under their names, etc.

"Russia’s troll identities were more sophisticated than anyone thought"

One of the most surprising lessons of the indictment is just how seriously the Russians took their fake identities. We might associate troll accounts with spam or weird visuals, but at least some of the accounts described by Mueller were backed up by full-scale identity theft. According to the indictment, defendants used stolen Social Security numbers to build entire false personas, complete with fraudulent photo IDs and PayPal accounts. Crucially, the stolen Social Security numbers meant all of it was happening in a real US citizen’s name. If anyone looked into the person behind the account, they’d see a long paper trail and plenty of government-issued verification to settle their suspicions.

Even the troll’s internet activity would have looked normal from the outside. According to the indictment, one of the first things the Internet Research Agency did was establish a VPN (or virtual private network) within US borders, allowing them to route all activity through a Stateside intermediary. To anyone in the US, it would have looked like an American citizen visiting a real-name account from an American IP address.

That’s a big shift from how we’ve thought of Russian interference for the past year, and it makes things much harder for Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of the internet. When tech companies were called before Congress in November, the focus was on the most obvious troll activity. There were political ads bought in rubles and accounts maintained from Russian IP addresses. Facebook and Twitter were clearly unprepared for an influence campaign of this scale, but the threat seemed equally haphazard. How hard is it to flag Russian IP addresses?

Stopping this kind of fake account is much harder, and it cuts at the heart of how identity works on networks like Facebook. We know how to look for malware or scams, but these accounts weren’t doing anything out of bounds for a regular user. We know how to look for bots, but these accounts were directed by real humans. We know how to verify identities, but with a photo ID and a valid Social Security number, these trolls would have passed every verification test in the industry. It takes effort to establish this kind of identity, which means you can’t run millions at once — but with the viral lift from a social network, you don’t have to.

So to anyone outside, the trolls just look like other Americans posting in America

Trump has just changed his tune from "there's no Russian involvement and thus no collusion" to "just no collusion" (accepting that Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014)

These indictments mean Mueller's investigations won't be going away soon since it's now becoming large criminal activities such as real identity thefts

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