The social media giant Facebook has removed several pages, groups and accounts from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, citing “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” aimed at misleading social media users.
According to news agencies A total of 443 Facebook accounts, 200 pages and 76 groups, as well as 125 Instagram accounts, were removed, the social media platform said on Thursday.
They were traced to three separate and “unconnected” operations, one of which was operating in three countries, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Nigeria; and two others in Indonesia and Egypt, to spread misleading posts and news articles.
Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said the accounts were spreading content on topics like UAE’s activity in Yemen, the Iran nuclear deal and criticism of Qatar, Turkey and Iran.
Those operations created “networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were, and what they were doing,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy said in the statement. In all, the accounts on Facebook and Instagram commanded an estimated 7.5 million followers.
The company added that it is taking down the 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.”
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to an Indonesia media firm InsightID,” FB reportedly said.
As much as $300,000 was reportedly spent on Facebook ads paid in the Indonesian currency, rupiah.
Earlier this year, Facebook removed accounts from Iraq, Ukraine, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand, Honduras and Israel. Facebook is also making attempts to prevent online abuses and spread of misinformation, including in political election campaigns. Another report says a study conducted by the University of Oxford and published in late September, revealed that a “handful of sophisticated state actors” are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to influence a global audience.
It listed China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela for using Facebook and Twitter for “foreign influence operations”. The report said that most recently, China has been “aggressively using” Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in a “global disinformation” campaign related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. —Agencies