Facebook removed hundreds of accounts associated with an Israeli company allegedly behind a misinformation campaign ahead of European elections.
The social media giant dinged roughly 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Facebook pages, groups and events associated with Israeli campaign firm Archimedes Group, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, noted in a blog post Thursday. The company was allegedly promoting and publishing misinformation and inauthentic data ahead of Europe’s elections.
Much of the campaign was directed at users in Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia, the blog post notes. The accounts represented themselves as locals and published allegedly leaked information about politicians.
Archimedes Group, which calls itself a consulting firm, frequently violates “our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter,” Gleicher wrote in the post. Facebook identified the accounts through internal probes.
Nearly 2.8 million accounts followed many of the pages that have since been taken down, about 5,500 accounts joined at least one of the groups and approximately 920 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts. The campaign spent $812,000 in ads on Facebook, which were paid for in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekel and U.S. dollars.
The first ad ran in December 2012, and the most recent came in April, according to Gleicher. (RELATED: Facebook Nixed Nearly 3 Billion Fake Accounts In Run Up To Midterm Elections. How Many Of Them Were Real?)
Facebook is deploying 40 people across Europe to monitor online conversation, any signs of manipulation, fake news and hate speech. Intelligence experts, data scientists, researchers and engineers will be backing up the company’s efforts as European elections begin in late May. Their campaign to fortify elections this month comes amid the U.S.’s swirling midterm election cycle.
Facebook was scrutinized following the 2016 elections after reports showed Russia using its platform to troll voters. A Russian firm called the Internet Research Agency (IRA) created Facebook and Twitter accounts in the names of fictitious U.S. grassroots groups and used them to pose as anti-immigration groups, Tea Party activists and Black Lives Matter protesters, among others, according to the special counsel’s report.
The technique, which included creating conservative-sounding accounts like @TEN_ GOP, was designed to get some groups within the U.S. animated as the elections neared. The IRA eventually supported then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at the expense of his 2016 opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Russia’s troll job created a massive headache for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
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