Many security experts are familiar with compromised accounts - when someone unauthorized obtains account access.

A major issue at FB/IG was self-compromised accounts: People willingly hand over account access to others, as I write in @restofworld (1/7)…
Why would someone choose to give a nefarious third party access to their account?

Services known as "autolikers" are popular in much of the world. They offer the user free automatic likes. All you have to do is hand over your access token - letting them login as yourself (2/7)
This behavior is perhaps the main driver behind commercial fake engagement online. It's the activity @sebastian_bay at @STRATCOMCOE investigated in 2019. But it shouldn't be confused with what Facebook calls CIB - governmental style troll farms. (3/7)…
Self-compromised accounts of this sort are cheaply available. But they're usually run using crude ineffective computer scripts. In analogy, newspapers using scripts can easily create a vast profusion of articles - with almost no readers or impact (pic: The Ann Arbor Times) (4/7)
Moreover, as the accounts involved are from the Global South, they're extraordinarily obvious when used in Western politics.

In this 2018 example, @ThePostRegister called out 1.3k such accounts for liking their editorial (I removed the likes prior to the 2018 election.) (5/7)
Despite the commonality of this activity in the Global South, self-compromise isn't understood by the public. It's often mistakenly confused for InfoOps/CIB/disinfo.

In fact, fake fans are useless for real activity, as the People's Daily Online Australia demonstrates here (6/7)
But nations like Brazil or India faced the danger of politicians with easy access to a supply of fake likes/comments/etc. provided by their own real citizens.

Those using autolikers should realize they're slowly eroding the democratic health of their own country. (7/7)

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More from @szhang_ds

11 Jun
In 11/2018, I helped investigate America Progress Now (APN), a shady group running Green Party ads in swing districts. Other employees quickly determined that the group was run by US conservative operatives.

FB failed to act before the election. (1/15)…
The episode attracted the attention of the press at the time. My role was minor; others did the real work.

FB did finally act after the election... to warn the perpetrators their duplicate accounts would be disabled. Mission accomplished, we said. (2/15)…
Although the world had no idea, FB knew the page was controlled by three people. They were using duplicate accounts - e.g. @duncan_colton created a "CG Duncan" account.

As they sent FB their personal ID for ad verification, this apparent obfuscation was not effective. (3/15) Image
Read 16 tweets
19 Apr
It might be surprising to others that I felt so strongly about protecting democracy worldwide, when I'm just a silly Chinese-American girl who doesn't even like leaving her house.

But I firmly believe that everyone deserves equal protection of law - regardless of nation. (1/4)
I realize that it's a fact of life that everyone cares more about their own nation; to the average Western audience, a dozen deaths in the US are treated far more seriously than hundreds in Myanmar. 300 million Americans are considered more important than 1 billion Indians. (2/4)
But it's also the nature of the world that value judgments change over time.

As a daughter of Chinese immigrants, my becoming a U.S. citizen was illegal until 150 years ago. Eight score years ago, slavery was commonplace in the United States; today we find it anathema. (3/4)
Read 4 tweets
17 Apr
Facebook will say that I'm seeking attention. I never wanted attention - to face threats from powerful companies, to anger multiple powerful political figures throughout the world. Why would anyone want that?

I wanted to stay home and pet my cats. They are very good cats. Image
But we all have to do things in life that we never wanted. I'm sure Navalny didn't want to return home to the arms of a government who wished to murder him. Tsikhanouskaya was a housewife, why would she wish to be banished from Belarus?

What I've risked is nothing in comparison.
Changing the world is hard. In Myanmar, Khin Myo Chit was killed at the age of six years old. She was no threat at all to the military regime that murdered her.

The world won't improve unless we work together. I'm just a silly American trying to help.…
Read 4 tweets
15 Apr
I fought tooth and nail at Facebook for justice, because I knew the company would never have carried out my work without me. I thought it was my responsibility to do my utmost to protect the sanctity of the world's largest democracy.

FB disagreed. (1/6)…
The @BJP4India politician's network was tiny and silly compared to what I saw in AZ and HN. I wouldn't consider it newsworthy, if it weren't for the fact that we were ready to take it down - approval had been given.

Then I found the BJP connection - and everything stopped. (2/6)
FB had more than a week to get their story straight. They couldn't even manage that.

Even in the best case for Facebook, if you believe them completely, they lied to the press through incompetence or deceit, and took half a year to act on the network. (3/6)
Read 6 tweets
13 Apr
I was naïve and silly when I caught Honduran President @JuanOrlandoH red-handed. I thought I'd hand it over, the right teams would take care of it, and I could get back to my actual job.
Instead, it was the beginning of a Sisyphean 2-year struggle (1/6)…
FB wasn't too surprised at the revelation. When I presented the situation to public policy leaders in 2018, one of them explained that he'd already been told socially by Hernandez's political consultants that they used troll farms.

That should have been my first red flag. (2/6)
But to me this was shocking. I was only half a year into a low-level DS job. I spoke no Spanish, had never visited Latin America, knew nothing about who this Juan Orlando Hernandez chap was until I Googled him.

I still caught him red-handed. He didn't care to hide. (3/6)
Read 6 tweets
13 Apr
I was only 28 when I discovered the Azerbaijani network. I spoke no Azeri, had never been within a thousand miles of the country, and didn't know who Ilham Aliyev was without Google.

The Azeri government was still incompetent enough to be caught.…
I do want to highlight Facebook's response

Facebook PR implies that I'm lying - but can't find any mistakes with my details. They left the recidivists to return for months, but did a takedown as soon as it entered the press.

Yet more proof that FB prioritizes PR over integrity.
To any Azeri readers,

I can only imagine how saddening this must be for you. Not only does your government manipulate and harass you, they were utterly incompetent at it as well.

Even a small child knows to hide when they act badly. Aliyev must have been too spoiled to learn.
Read 8 tweets

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