Foreign Facebook Scammers Targeting Military Veterans

December 5th, 2018 4:30 PM

Facebook is eager to contain “hate speech” violations. But the platform can’t seem to protect some users from foreign scams.

Wired ran a story on December 5 analyzing the rise of troll pages that are targeted to veterans. One of the pages had a trademark and name that was similar to the Vietnam Veterans of America. Over the course of 15 months, the author, Iraq veteran Kristofer Goldsmith found trolls in Bulgaria, the Philippines, and 27 other countries that were running Facebook pages targeting American troops and veterans.

In an op-ed, Goldsmith, the assistant director for Policy and Government Affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, explained that the imposter pages were treated by Facebook as legitimate news pages, since the trolls had found ways to trick the algorithms. A video falsely labelled, “EXCLUSIVE: Vietnam Veterans Monument Vandalized...Share and Vote!” was treated by Facebook as a live feed. The video was “pushed into the newsfeeds of tens of thousands of Americans.”

One of the pages was a fake Vietnam Veterans of America page, with millions of followers and highly shared posts.

The pages changed the dates on old stories and tried to stir up outrage by producing polarizing content. Goldsmith expressed concern that after all the privacy breaches on Facebook, any hostile foreign actor could “cross-reference” data and target individual veterans.

Reporting features apparently discovered that none of the posts or the accounts activity violated community standards. Even after the pages were reported, it took months for Facebook to shut them down.