Brussels (Brussels Morning) US tech giant Facebook announced the removal of two networks involving accounts based in Russia and another linked to the French military. They were cited for conducting interference campaigns in countries in North Africa and the Middle East, RFI reports.
According to Facebook, the two networks in Russia are associated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA), while the one in France has “links to individuals associated with French military.”
Facebook removed all three networks for violating the policy against foreign and government interference.
Disinformation against disinformation
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook, and David Agranovich, head of global threat disruption, note the two rival campaigns butted heads online. “This was the first time our team found two campaigns — from France and Russia — actively engaging with one another, including by befriending, commenting and criticizing the opposing side for being fake,” they observed.
Facebook points out the networks used fake accounts to mislead people, which is why it took action against them. The French network comprised 84 Facebook accounts, 9 groups, 6 pages and 14 Instagram accounts, and engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.”
Similarly, the two IRA-connected networks comprised 274 Facebook accounts, 18 Instagram accounts and a number of groups and pages. Gleicher and Agranovich point out they have shared their findings with authorities and industry partners, and conclude they are determined to root out abuse of Facebook.
Some of the posts targeted Facebook users in the Central African Republic (CAR) in the lead-up to parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 27 December, Reuters reports. Although largely focused on the CAR, the two campaigns targeted internet users in 13 other African countries.
“You can’t fight fire with fire. We have these two efforts from different sides of these issues using the same tactics and techniques, and they end up looking sort of the same,” Gleicher observed.
Ben Nimmo, head of investigations as Graphika social network analysis firm, points out neither side gained much traction in the CAR as “they looked like two troll teams arm wrestling, with nobody else really paying attention.”