Facebook has removed a few hundred Facebook and Instagram accounts, Facebook pages, groups and events for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” which mainly targeted Africa. The social network has also an Israeli firm for its part in spreading the misinformation.
The fake accounts, which all originated in Israel, represented themselves as locals, including local news organisations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians. They also frequently posted about elections, candidate views, and criticism of political opponents.
The places targeted were Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger, and Tunisia, with ‘some activity’ in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Facebook’s investigation found that ‘some’ of the activity was linked to Israeli company Archimedes Group. On the back of this finding, the social media firm banned the organisation and all its subsidiaries, and issued a cease and desist letter.
The parties behind the fake accounts spent around $812,000 on Facebook ads, paid for in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekel, and US dollars, between December 2012 and April 2019.
These ads were run between 65 Facebook accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events, and four Instagram accounts. Approximately 2.8m accounts followed one or more of the pages, around 5,500 accounts joined at least one of the groups, and about 920 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.
“We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, in a blog post. “We’re taking down these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted. As in other cases involving coordinated inauthentic behaviour, the individuals behind this activity coordinated with one another to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing, and that was the basis for our action.”