Facebook Removes Fake Israel-Based Accounts Targeting African Elections

Facebook Removes Fake Israel-Based Accounts Targeting African Elections

Social media giant Facebook has removed 265 accounts that were posing as local people and news organizations in Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia.

Archimedes Group, an Israeli political consultancy linked to some of the accounts, has been banned for “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour,” according to a Facebook statement.

The firm was behind some of the Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages and groups that “artificially increased engagement” while presenting themselves as locals and local news organizations, coordinating with one another to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,
Facebook said.

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The accounts in question spent an estimated $812,000 for ads on the platform between December 2012 and April 2019. Facebook has now disabled the accounts.

That ad spend reached an audience of around 2.8 million accounts that followed one or more of the removed pages, Facebook revealed.

An estimated 5,500 accounts joined at least one of the Facebook groups and around 920 people followed the implicated Instagram accounts.

The network of accounts, pages and groups were used to share content, including election-related news and criticism of targeted politicians in those six African countries, five of which have held elections since 2016, AfricaNews reports.

Tunisia is set to hold elections later this year.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose. AP Photo – Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

Some of the accounts were linked to Archimedes Group, an Israeli political consultancy that describes itself as playing significant roles in political and public campaigns, including presidential elections around the globe, according to Quartz.

Facebook bans based on behaviour, not content

Facebook responded by banning Archimedes Group.

Facebook made it clear that the accounts and pages have been removed from the platform “based on their behaviour, not the content they posted,” according to the Facebook statement.

Some of the activity was targeted in Latin America and Southeast Asia.