I’m always a bit cautious when discussing the work I did at Facebook this past summer as a data science intern. There are some grey areas surrounding what I am allowed to discuss because of my NDA. Unfortunately that means that I can’t show off any of the pretty graphs I made there. That being said, I have been told that anything that has been reported in the press is fair game.

That’s why I was excited to see this article published in Reuters detailing the exact type of foreign bad actors I worked on detecting during my time in the civic integrity org:

Spammers and scammers using U.S. election to turn profit online, Facebook says

The entire team I was on was focused to eradicating these types of bad actors, called complex financial operations (or CFO’s for short), ahead of the 2020 US election. I focused on CFO’s on Facebook groups in particular, which had been an area that had been somewhat neglected until then. For more on the uniquely devastating effects bad actors in Facebook groups can cause, I would enourage you to read the aptly named Wired article “Facebook Groups Are Destroying America”.

As a data scientist, I analyzed attributes of Facebook groups with inauthentic participation in political conversations for financial gain (CFOs) based on previous groups that had been targeted by these bad actors. I went on to build a detection pattern based on my analysis, and used this with an internal cluster detection tool to automatically flag potential CFOs to investigators.

Civic Integrity in social media companies continues to be a very relevant space lately. I hope Facebook, as well as other companies, continue to make advances in taking down bad actors and curbing the spread of fraud and malicious information in the civic space.