Facebook says it will show geographic origin of some posts, to thwart foreign political disinformation campaigns

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/04/22/facebook-says-it-will-show-geo.html


As an unintended consequence it will help to locate the owners of several parody accounts.

I wonder how precise will be the location and if it will extend to pages based on the US to help monitor astroturf groups.


Any techies care to weigh in on how easy it would be for a reasonably well-funded Russian disinformation campaign to spoof their IP addresses well enough to get past Facebook’s filters?


We’ve had more than a decade of foreign DoS attacks on infrastructure being launched from servers within the US. The social media campaigns that are obviously run from foreign states are usually obvious because they don’t care about origins being discovered.

@brainspore: trivial.

This move looks like a PR band-aid.


Hello, this is Boris. From uh… Detroit in the Michigan. Vote for Great Leader Trump. Joe Biden can not hold his Vodka.


Not even a speed bump’s worth.


As dorgar said, trivial. Facebook would have to be doing much more than IP address detection, but we know they have extensive tracking data.


Good thing VPNs don’t exist


I suspect this may be ‘veracity theatre’.


Elliotk beat me to it. With VPNs and web proxies, this effort is (sadly) worthless.


This is still useful. Because even if most foreign trolls proxy or spoof IP, some will continue to be lazy.

We will be able to analyze the trend of an uptick in foreign trolls in the runup to the election and make statements about who the trolls favor, from which country. The trends will be smaller than if they had more sophisticated systems, but measurable.

So it’s not a total loss.

I was saying it was a PR move instead of a useful mitigation, not that it was useless. The data was also there for facebook to analyze already, and they are in a much better position to do so than an end user. (Geographic info in the facebook API might be somewhat usefull for research. )

We will be able to analyze the trend of an uptick in foreign trolls in the runup to the election and make statements about who the trolls favor

Well, that doesn’t sound like it’s prone to manipulation by a sophisticated adversary at all.

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On the other hand, by showing a location people might lose all doubt about the origins of the account. Without any location, there may have been some doubt.

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It’s trivially easy to spoof geolocation as a private user. All you need is a public VPN (Private internet access/nord VPN type thing)

It’s a bit less easy to make it seem like your spoofed location is the real one.

If you already have state funding it becomes really easy to setup private VPN that’d work really well though.

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Why set up VPNs? A good botnet of home routers in the US would be a lot of fun to post from.


Maybe if they ask for HTML5 Geolocation information? That’s very hard to fake.


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Очень просто, товарищ

I, for one, applaud this bold stance. Whenever I’m garrotting someone with piano wire, I always make sure to tell them that the person who took out the contract may have been somewhere in the tri-state area; otherwise, I’d worry that I was acting unethically.

I would think if address detection was all they were doing then this effort would be seen as naively simplistic; not even good misdirection. If they report these origins with a “confidence level” then I would be inclined to believe they are using some of the tools they had available.


A recent editorial statement in Mother Jones magazine put it well:

"We really confront two pandemics right now — the virus as well as what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic,” as information chaos creates a breeding ground for lies and rumor. Viral misinformation relies on quick transmission to do its damage, and all of us can help slow its spread. Each one of us who refuses to share a rumor by email, Facebook post, or text message can be the one who breaks the chain of transmission. It’s like social distancing for information.

…a few simple principles: Always check the source (and where the source got it from, all the way back to a credible, established wellspring). If something seems to confirm all your preexisting notions, check it extra hard. Always look at context, especially for too-good-to-be-true anecdotes and outrageous quotes. And above all, keep a cool head. Skepticism is healthy, and transparency is the best disinfectant."

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