Misinformation campaigns in Africa leads Facebook to remove fake accounts

Facebook has taken down hundreds of the social network’s accounts because of a sophisticated campaign of “inauthentic behaviour” predominantly targeting users in Africa.

The fraudulent accounts frequently published material to broadcast political data, with elections results in a number of countries involved in the phoney messages, Facebook said.

An Israeli firm has also been banned from Facebook after investigations into the situation. The action comes as Facebook feels the pressure within the international community to do more about the content that it publishes and to shore up security and privacy on the popular social media platform.

After Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States three years ago, Mark Zuckerberg’s firm began an audit of its accounts to determine user authenticity. It subsequently announced the removal of 265 accounts that were traced back to Israel.

Fake news was also found to be spread by users in Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia, while Latin America and South East Asia also showed signs of activity.

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote in a blog post:

“The people behind this network used fake accounts to run pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement.

“They also represented themselves as locals, including local news organisations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians,” he added.

Gleicher also said that a probe of some of the goings on led investigators back to Israeli firm, Archimedes Group

“This organisation and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter,” Gleicher said.

Around $812,000 (£634,941) was spent by the fraudsters behind the fake accounts, much of which went on advertising between December 2012 and April 2019.

The campaigns were carried out across political elections in five of the six targeted African countries, while Tunisia prepares to hold elections later in 2019.

Facebook has come under fire to control misinformation, specifically linked to political news, since the Cambridge Analytica scandal which hit the headlines in early 2018.a

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