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Facebook purges group of fake accounts attempting to influence UK politics

Tyrone Stewart

Facebook app logoFacebook has removed a network of fake accounts, pages, and groups from its platform for spreading hate speech and divisive comments on both sides of the political spectrum in the UK.

The 137 UK-originating Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages, and groups all represented themselves as far-right and anti-far-right activists. Much of their posts were surrounded local and political news about immigration, free speech, racism, LGBT issues, far-right politics, issues between India and Pakistan, and religious beliefs.

Facebook found that around 175,000 accounts followed one or more of the 23 pages, while about 4,500 accounts followed one or more of the 35 Instagram accounts. Approximately $1,500 was spent on Facebook ads by the network between December 2013 and October 2018.

In a separate case, Facebook also removed 31 accounts, pages, and groups from an operation in Romania. Similarly, the accounts were involved in trying to influence the Romanian political picture. However, they used a combination of both fake and authentic accounts to mislead people.

These Romanian accounts posted content which included partisan news with fake bylines in support of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). They hosted content from domains that present themselves as news sites and some activity was found to be linked to some associated with the PSD.

Around 1,550 Facebook accounts followed one or more of the pages, and about $650 was spent on ads between December 2013 and February 2019.

“The two domestic operations we found originated in the UK and Romania. We didn’t find any links between these sets of activities, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, in a blog post.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”