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Facebook takes down hundreds of spam accounts and Pages

They used Facebook to drive traffic to outside websites.
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Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook announced today that it is taking down 559 Pages and 251 accounts for breaking its rules on spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Though that's a relatively small number for Facebook -- by the second quarter of this year, it had already removed 583 million fake accounts -- this round of takedowns shows how the company is targeting spam that's motivated by money rather than politics.

While Facebook is still working on taking down fake accounts and Pages aimed at stoking political tensions, both in the US and abroad, it's also focusing on spam so that its users can "trust the connections they make on Facebook." Of those removed today, Facebook said many used fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same name to post a large amount of content on various Groups and Pages, with the goal being to drive traffic to outside websites through which they could collect ad revenue. "They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms," Facebook said about those utilizing these sorts of strategies.

Facebook added that often, these people will post clickbait in dozens of Groups, sometimes hundreds of times, in order to boost their website traffic. They'll also use their fake accounts to generate likes and shares, which drives up their engagement and their News Feed rankings.

While Facebook emphasizes that these accounts were motived by money, the New York Times reports that many of those taken down today were political in nature and relied on fake news to generate clicks. The social media company noted that while spam accounts have typically used topics like celebrity gossip or natural disasters to generate traffic, they now often use "sensational political content" to do so, regardless of the political leaning. Facebook told the New York Times that the removals today include the largest number of domestic accounts and Pages involved in influence campaigns, a shift from the foreign-based campaigns we've seen in the past.

"As we get better at uncovering this kind of abuse, the people behind it -- whether economically or politically motivated -- will change their tactics to evade detection," said Facebook. "It's why we continue to invest heavily, including in better technology, to prevent this kind of misuse. Because people will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here."

Update 10/11/18 5:10PM ET: This post was updated to include reporting from the New York Times.

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