Facebook removes multiple accounts from Nigeria, others

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Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Inc has removed several pages, groups and accounts on its platforms from Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Indonesia, citing coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

A total of 280 Facebook accounts, 149 pages and 43 groups, and 121 Instagram accounts were removed, the social media platform said on Thursday.

Facebook, which owns one-time rivals Instagram and WhatsApp, said the accounts were engaged in spreading content on topics like UAE’s activity in Yemen, the Iran nuclear deal and the criticism of Qatar, Turkey and Iran.

The social media giant has recently been cracking down on such accounts after coming under fire in the last few years for its self-admitted sluggishness in developing tools to combat extremist content and propaganda operations.

“We removed 211 Facebook accounts, 107 Pages, 43 Groups and 87 Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in the UAE, Egypt and Nigeria,” Facebook said.

It fingered MintReach, as the marketing firm in Nigeria that is carrying out coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

“There were multiple sets of activity, each localized for a specific country or region, primarily in the Middle East and Africa, and some in Europe, North and South America, South Asia and East Asia, and Australia.

“The people behind this network used fake accounts – some of which had already been disabled by our automated systems — to run Pages, post in Groups, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement.

“They managed Pages — some of which changed names over time — sharing local news in targeted countries and promoting content about UAE.

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“The Page admins and account owners primarily posted videos, photos and web links related to local events and issues in a particular country, and some content on topics including elections and candidates; UAE’s activity in Yemen; the first Emirati astronaut; criticism of Qatar, Turkey, and Iran; the Iran nuclear deal, and criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to three marketing firms — Charles Communications in UAE, MintReach in Nigeria and Flexell in Egypt,” Facebook added.

Earlier this year, it removed accounts from Iraq, Ukraine, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand, Honduras and Israel.

Facebook is making attempts to prevent online abuses and spread of misinformation, including in political election campaigns.

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