Facebook bans Israeli firm for pushing ‘propaganda’ campaign in Africa
Facebook has banned an Israeli firm from its platform after it was found to have mounted an effort to use a network of fake accounts to influence politics across West Africa, the social media company announced on Thursday.
Facebook said in a blog post that it believes the Archimedes Group was behind many of the 265 pages and accounts it shut down on Thursday.
“It has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote of the Archimedes Group.
“This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter.”
The Tel Aviv-based firm did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
According to Facebook, the firm’s presence consisted of 65 Facebook accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts. The network’s activity was directed at Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia.
“The people behind this network used fake accounts to run Pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement,” Gleicher wrote.
“They also represented themselves as locals, including local news organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians. The Page administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents.”
Gleicher said that the accounts were taken down because they violated Facebook’s policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and not because of the content they were pushing.
The slogan on Archimedes’s website reads, “Winning Campaigns Worldwide.”
“Archimedes consists of experts from a wide spectrum of fields, consulting, lobbying, public diplomacy, International public relations, information, and social media,” the website reads.
“Our teams took significant roles in many political and public campaigns, among them Presidential elections and other social media projects all over the world.”
Read below the full statement by Facebook:
By Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy
Today we removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Facebook Pages, Groups and events involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This activity originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
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 organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians.
The Page administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents.
Although the individuals behind this network attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that some of this activity was linked to an Israeli commercial entity, Archimedes Group.
It has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter.
- Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts.
- Followers: About 2.8 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 5,500accounts joined at least one of these Groups and around 920 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
- Advertising: Around $812,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekel, and US dollars. The first ad ran in December 2012 and the most recent ad ran in April 2019.
- Events: Nine events were hosted by these Pages. The first was scheduled for October 2017 and the most recent was scheduled for May 2019. Up to 2,900 people expressed interest in at least one of these events, and a portion of their accounts were previously identified and disabled as fake. We cannot confirm whether any of these events actually occurred.
We identified these accounts and Pages through our internal investigations into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior. We have shared information about our analysis with industry partners and policymakers.
We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted.
As in other cases involving coordinated inauthentic behavior, the individuals behind this activity coordinated with one another to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing, and that was the basis for our action.
We are making progress rooting out this abuse, and, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge. We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead.
That’s why we’re investing heavily in building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies.
Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:
Caption: Faithful to only himself, Martin Fayulu criticizes and rejects the results of the presidential election, which has unfolded transparently and in an exemplary calmness. It is time for him to admit his defeat to president Tshisekedi who has been elected in a democratic way.
Caption: Mali: Justice Survey on a Mysterious Gold Mine from Airbus to Mali Airbus group is quoted in a judicial investigation for scam on a Malian gold mine in balance sheet deposit, whose shareholders have been ruined.
The investment project of the aerospace giant in this mine, LED by a close to Malian power, seemed intended to clear occult funds to facilitate the obtaining of military markets in the country. This is a very embarrassing new business….
Source: The Hill (additional from Facebook)