Facebook desbarata una campaña de desinformación a cuatro meses de las legislativas de EE UU (El Pais)

Facebook anunció este martes la eliminación de 32 páginas y perfiles falsos en la red social y en Instagram por integrar un esfuerzo “coordinado” de difusión de desinformación en torno a asuntos políticos y sociales a menos de cuatro meses de las elecciones legislativas en Estados Unidos. La compañía de Mark Zuckerberg señaló que no ha podido determinar por ahora quién está detrás de esa operación ni que sus acciones se dirigieran a políticos determinados, pero reveló que el patrón guarda algunos paralelismos con la actuación de los piratas informáticos rusos que durante la campaña de 2016 crearon perfiles falsos para tratar de influir en la opinión pública a favor del candidato republicano Donald Trump.

“Este tipo de comportamiento no está permitido en Facebook porque no queremos que gente u organizaciones creen redes de cuentas para engañar a otros sobre quiénes son o lo que están haciendo”, señaló el grupo tecnológico en un comunicado. Representantes de Facebook también informaron sobre esos hallazgos a legisladores y personal policial.

Como ocurrió con las páginas falsas durante la campaña de 2016, el objetivo era exacerbar divisiones entre los estadounidenses, incluso alentando sutilmente a una confrontación violenta, por ejemplo en asuntos raciales, migratorios y de género. Una unidad especializada del Atlantic Council, un laboratorio de ideas, analizó con anterioridad para Facebook ocho de las páginas clausuradas. Cree que todo apunta a que el responsable es un “actor externo” y “posiblemente” Rusia porque hay errores lingüísticos y publicación de imágenes ya empleadas en 2016. El objetivo era infiltrar comunidades progresistas en EE UU y que la desinformación fuera compartida por ciudadanos reales que creyeran que era cierta. Algunas de las páginas trataban de explotar situaciones de discriminación a estadounidenses nativos, ciudadanos negros o mujeres.

Facebook ha sido acusada de pasividad ante los esfuerzos de propaganda durante la campaña de 2016 y el uso de información privada con fines electorales por parte de consultoras políticas. Ante la avalancha de críticas y la amenaza de mayor regulación, el gigante de Silicon Valley ha prometido mejorar sus controles. “Nos enfrentamos a adversarios determinados y bien financiados que nunca se rendirán y están cambiando constantemente de tácticas. Es una carrera armamentística y nosotros debemos mejorar constantemente también”, agregó la nota.

El anuncio de Facebook se conoce una semana después de que aflorara el primer caso conocido de intento de pirateo informático durante la campaña a las legislativas del 6 de noviembre, en las que los republicanos de Trump se juegan mantener el control de la Cámara de Representantes y el Senado. La senadora demócrata por Misuri Claire McCaskill, que aspira a la reelección, sufrió un ciberataque fallido por parte de la misma agencia de espionaje militar ruso que se infiltró en 2016 en el servidor del Partido Demócrata y robó 50.000 correos del jefe de campaña de Hillary Clinton. En paralelo, Microsoft anunció haber detectado en las últimas semanas otros tres intentos de ataques a políticos.

Los servicios de inteligencia estadounidenses acusan a Rusia de llevar a cabo en 2016 una sofisticada estrategia de difusión de propaganda y de información robada a los demócratas con el objetivo de ayudar a la candidatura de Trump y dañar la de Clinton, así como propiciar divisiones sociales y socavar la fe en el proceso democrático. Moscú niega esa acusación. Trump se ha mostrado titubeante sobre la responsabilidad rusa.

El pasado viernes, el mandatario celebró la primera reunión de su equipo de seguridad sobre cómo prevenir intentos de intromisión en los comicios de noviembre. En las últimas semanas, el director de Inteligencia Nacional, Dan Coats, ha advertido del peligro de una nueva injerencia.

Facebook explicó que su investigación interna está en una “fase muy inicial”, pero que consideró necesario anunciar sus hallazgos porque una de las páginas falsas, ahora clausurada, promovía una contramanifestación a una concentración de extrema derecha convocada la próxima semana en Washington.

Los promotores de las páginas falsas, según Facebook, tomaron muchas más precauciones para ocultar sus “verdaderas identidades” que la Agencia de Investigación de Internet (IRA, en sus siglas inglesas), la organización creada por piratas rusos que impulsó un entramado de informaciones falsas en la red social en la antesala de los comicios de 2016. Esos mensajes buscaban alentar tensiones raciales, políticas y económicas en EE UU. “Creemos que esto puede deberse en parte a cambios que hemos hecho en el último año para hacer este tipo de abusos mucho más difíciles”, alegó la firma.

Facebook identificó hace dos semanas los primeros de los 17 perfiles y ocho páginas falsas, así como siete cuentas fraudulentas en Instagram. Se crearon entre marzo de 2017 y mayo de este año. Una de las páginas era seguida por más de 290.000 usuarios reales, pero otras tenían entre cero y diez seguidores. Algunos de los títulos de los grupos falsos eran “Elevación negra” y “Resisters”. En total, las páginas habían creado 9.500 posts en Facebook y solo uno en Instagram. Habían contratado 150 anuncios por un coste total de 11.000 dólares que pagaron en divisa estadounidense y canadiense.

Pese a que Facebook aún no ha podido identificar a los autores, ha encontrado “algunas conexiones” con las cuentas desactivadas ahora y las creadas en 2016 por los piratas informáticos rusos. “Parte de la actividad es consistente con lo que vimos en el pasado en la IRA antes y después de las elecciones de 2016”, informó. Hay también diferencias notables. Por ejemplo, no se ha detectado el uso de direcciones IP procedentes de Rusia.

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