Facebook removes more misinformation campaigns

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Facebook said it has removed hundreds of accounts, pages and groups from the platform which were spreading misinformation about political issues in the Middle East.

The accounts, which were part of a large network, originated in the UAE, Egypt and Nigeria posted content promoting the UAE and criticising Qatar, Turkey and Iran, Facebook said.

The social network said 211 Facebook accounts, 107 pages and 43 groups had been removed linked to the activity, as well as 87 Instagram accounts.

It is the latest in a string of large misinformation networks Facebook says it has uncovered and removed in the last year.

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said: “The people behind this network used fake accounts – some of which had already been disabled by our automated systems — to run pages, post in groups, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement.

“They managed pages – some of which changed names over time – sharing local news in targeted countries and promoting content about the UAE.

“The page admins and account owners primarily posted videos, photos and web links related to local events and issues in a particular country, and some content on topics including elections and candidates; UAE’s activity in Yemen; the first Emirati astronaut; criticism of Qatar, Turkey, and Iran; the Iran nuclear deal, and criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Facebook said the network of accounts had been created to “mislead others about who they were and what they were doing”, which is why they were removed.

The social network said that despite attempting to conceal their identities, it found the network had links to three marketing firms – Charles Communications in the UAE, MintReach in Nigeria and Flexell in Egypt.

The social network said it had also removed two further networks of fake accounts – one in Indonesia and another in Egypt.

Facebook said 69 Facebook accounts, 42 pages and 34 Instagram accounts had been removed in Indonesia for spreading misinformation focusing on domestic issues.

The second Egyptian network, which Facebook said was not connected to the first, spread pro-UAE and Saudi Arabia-themed content and posts criticising Qatar, Turkey and Iran.

Facebook claimed it found the accounts had links to Egyptian newspaper El Fagr.

Chris Price
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