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Facebook Removes Fake Networks From France And Russia

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Facebook has taken down some fake accounts, pages and groups, including a few accounts from Instagram, for violating its policy against "coordinated inauthentic behavior" (CIB) on behalf of a foreign or government entity.

The social media giant said these were part of three separate networks that originated in France and Russia and targeted countries in North Africa and the Middle East - Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, Madagascar, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique and South Africa as well as Libya, Sudan and Syria.

Of the three networks, one was linked to "individuals associated with French military" and the other two were linked to "individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency" and also Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin, who is accused of meddling in the 2016 US election.

In total, Facebook removed 358 Facebook accounts, 161 pages, 32 groups and 32 Instagram accounts. People operating these accounts coordinated with each other to use fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people with disinformation about who they are and what they are doing. These accounts or pages were also followed or joined by thousands of accounts.

Some of these accounts, pages and groups had been detected and removed by Facebook's automated systems at the time of creation or soon thereafter.

The people behind this activity posted and commented on social, current and political news and events by posing as locals of that region or country as well as news and civic-focused entities. These comments and disinformation campaigns can be supportive or criticizing in nature, misleading internet users.

They also solicited content from local journalists. The people behind this activity took operational security steps to conceal their location and identity.

The topics for comments included COVID-19 and the Russian vaccine against the virus, the upcoming election in CAR, terrorism, Russia's presence in Sub-Saharan Africa, criticism of the French foreign policy and a fictitious coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea.

Facebook said their action to remove these operations was based on their investigations focused on "behavior rather than content, no matter who's behind them, what they post, or whether they're foreign or domestic."

Facebook has previously removed hundreds of accounts from its platforms over the past three years. It has also started publishing monthly CIB reports earlier in 2020 where it shares information about the networks taken-down. These take-downs will reflect in the December report. In some cases, it shares its findings soon after the enforcement action.

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