Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies that rolled out changes recently are yet not fully equipped to stop foreign meddling in the future US elections. According to a recent report, the internet companies have still a long way to go before they can stop such intrusion from foreign people.
Recently an indictment was issued by Mueller stating that at least 13 Russians were found to be involved in a sophisticated campaign that swayed the public opinion around the presidential election of 2016. The U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was focused on Russian operatives who influenced the results of the U.S. elections of 2016.
These Russians presented themselves as U.S. citizens, used falsified paperwork and stolen bank numbers for establishing their fake identities and even opened PayPal Holdings Inc. accounts for buying ads on popular social media sites. The narrative recently provided by Mueller describes a highly advanced Russian-backed misinformation effort that was previously thought.
In the last one year, both Facebook and Twitter faced the wrath for missing the purchasing of the U.S. election ads by the Russians through their systems. The name of PayPal never featured publicly until now. However, after the revelation of the investigations now PayPal too will come under scrutiny.
Identity Theft Much Tougher Than Expected
According to recent reports, the details about the identity theft mentioned in the indictment are tougher than the security and related issues solved by the companies like Facebook and Twitter so far. Facebook is trying to boost its security-focused workforce and improve its transparency level for those who are purchasing ads.
Twitter is not far behind and recently came up with a “transparency center” on political campaigning and spending. Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube is already hiring thousands of people for vetting videos. However, the indictment says that these measures are inadequate as they cannot stop the foreign agents from using stolen identities and bank accounts for buying divisive ads as well as for creating misleading posts.
PayPal Served As Funding Vehicle
PayPal is one internet medium that has always believed in carrying strict measures for online identity and fraud detection. Even then, the Russian operatives were successful at using its digital payments service as the funding vehicle for carrying out their deceptive campaigns. The Russian operatives were successful in making their respective transactions in social media companies systems as if they are like any other purchases made in U.S. dollars. Now this investigation raises a question whether there are other parties too who have already bought or will buy ads using stolen identities.
Once again these revelations point out to the fact that the main value of social media business models that stress that people are who they say they are on Facebook or Twitter or any other popular networking channel online cannot be always true. Both Facebook and Twitter sell ads using automated systems. Brands use it to reach their target audience and then, later on, find out how many people they have reached.
The indictment put forth by Mueller reveals how easily the fake operatives can game this system and also highlights the risk that there can be even many more such accounts that are fake thus eroding trust in the metrics followed by Facebook and Twitter.
According to an information sciences professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Zeynep Tufekci ,as long as the social media platforms continue to work the way they are doing now, by making it easy to pay to spread incendiary messages, it is difficult to see this problem going away.
Tufecki also tweeted that the operatives used the platforms as they were designed and all the problems that everyone is worried about will continue to be much on the same scale in 2018 and by 2020 and even up to another U.S. elections if these social networking giants fail to make the necessary changes.