Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics
(Bloomberg) - Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to influence politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identities.
Most of the remote networks were in the early stages of building their audience, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook's announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly coverage of efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, is one of the company's bigger raids in recent months.
"We've been expanding this program for several years," said David Agranovich, the global leader in threat disruption to Facebook. "I would expect that drum beat from the take downs to continue."
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In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram, which appears to be run by a year-long troll farm in Albania run by the Mujahedeen-e-. Khalq opposition group. According to a report published by Facebook, the group appeared to be targeting Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran.
The group was most active in 2017 but increased its activity again in the second half of 2020. It was one of the few influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies that could create realistic profile photos with the naked eye, according to the Facebook report.
The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages, and 10 Instagram accounts in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company's overseas interference policy. The group increased criticism of Henry Flores, a candidate for mayor in Santa Tecla, El Savador, and a supportive comment from his rivals.
The social media giant has also shut down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, a group, and 10 Instagram accounts in Iran that targeted Israel. The people behind the network pretended to be locals and, according to Facebook, criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The company has also cut networks in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other countries.
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook being discovered.
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