Cynthia Khoo (17/12/2021). Coordinated inauthentic behavior. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio. https://platformglossary.info/coordinated-inauthentic-behavior/.
Author: Cynthia Khoo
‘Coordinated inauthentic behavior’ (CIB) is a term frequently associated with concepts such as disinformation, online misinformation, computational propaganda, and the mass leveraging of bots or fake accounts to carry out a particular set of actions or disseminate particular messages across social media platforms. The term originated with Facebook, which has defined CIB as “domestic, non-government campaigns that include groups of accounts and Pages seeking to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing while relying on fake accounts”, including “fake engagement, spam and artificial amplification” (Facebook, 2020)1. To be clear, CIB can also be engaged in or instigated by foreign actors and governmental actors; in these cases, such activity is still considered a form of CIB, but Facebook then categorizes it as “Foreign or Government Interference (FGI)”. The more general definition that describes the behavior itself, regardless of the actor involved, may thus be more universally applied outside of Facebook’s specific internal categorization.
Despite the increasing popularization of the term, observers have noted that coordinated inauthentic behavior still does not have a completely stable or clear definition. For example, platform regulation scholar evelyn douek questioned whether or not CIB would include a “tactical and relatively sophisticated” campaign, where teenagers on TikTok and K-pop fans purposely reserved tickets to a campaign rally for the U.S. president in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June 2020, in order to “artificially inflate expected attendance numbers and mess with the Trump campaign’s data collection” while displacing genuine supporters and ensuring large numbers of empty seats at the rally (Gleicher, 2018)2. In response, “Facebook’s head of security (…) explained that the teens’ stunt wouldn’t have met Facebook’s definition of CIB because it did not involve the use of fake accounts or coordinate to mislead users of the platform itself (as opposed to misleading people off the platform)” (Douek, 2020)3. As another example complicating definitional boundaries, douek (2020) highlights:
how a network of 14 purportedly independent large Facebook pages drove traffic to the conservative site the Daily Wire, one of the most popular publications on Facebook, including by publishing the same articles at the same time with the same text.
Facebook’s explanation for not treating this activity as CIB was that “CIB is reserved for the most egregious violations, and this didn’t meet the threshold because the accounts weren’t fake” (Douek, 2020). Thus, the definition of ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior’ is still in flux, both in attempts to interpret and establish exactly what Facebook itself means by CIB, as well as in establishing what CIB means as a standalone term in the field of platform regulation generally, independent of what Facebook itself may consider being CIB for its own internal purposes. As Douek (2020) explains,
rare is the piece of online content that is truly authentic and not in some way trying to game the algorithms. Coordination and authenticity are not binary states but matters of degree, and this ambiguity will be exploited by actors of all stripes.
- Facebook. (2020). Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report. Available at: https://about.fb.com/news/2020/04/march-cib-report/.
- Gleicher, Nathaniel. (2018). Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Explained. Available at: https://about.fb.com/news/2018/12/inside-feed-coordinated-inauthentic-behavior/.
- Douek, E. (2020). What does “coordinated inauthentic behavior” actually mean? Slate. Available at: https://slate.com/technology/2020/07/coordinated-inauthentic-behavior-facebook-twitter.html.