Facebook catches yet another covert political influence campaign - this time in Moldova

facebook ceo mark zuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees joint hearing regarding the company's use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., on April 10, 2018.REUTERS/Alex Brandon/Pool

  • Facebook has banned a network of fake accounts that were trying to influence politics in Moldova.
  • The social network says the campaign had links to the Moldovan government.
  • It's the latest example of groups using Facebook to nefariously meddle in domestic affairs in countries around the world.

Another day, another covert campaign on Facebook to influence politics using fake accounts.

The Silicon Valley social network announced on Thursday that it had discovered a network of hundreds and accounts and pages in targeting people in Moldova, in an apparent attempt to influence political debate and social issues in the country ahead of upcoming elections - and Facebook says that employees of the Moldovan government were involved.

In a blog post, Facebook's head of cybersecurity police Nathaniel Gleicher said the company has "removed 168 Facebook accounts, 28 Pages and eight Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting people in Moldova. This activity originated in Moldova, and used a combination of fake accounts and some authentic accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing."

The takedowns are the latest example of how malicious actors have weaponized Facebook, time and time again, to sow division and push political narratives. It's a tactic that first drew scrutiny after Russia spread inflammatory disinformation and propaganda on Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.

And it indicates that Facebook, despite significant investments in "safety and security," has yet to eradicate these nefarious activities outright, and that some governments are now seemingly using them against their own citizens.

In January 2019, Facebook announced it had detected a similar campaign being run from Iran, targeting people in numerous countries, from Afghanistan to France, Germany, India, Israel, the US, and South Africa. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously described the battle between Facebook and hostile actors as an "arms race," with both sides fighting to stay ahead.

Gleicher said that employees of the Moldovan government were behind at least some of the activity:

"The Page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues such as required Russian or English language education and reunification with Romania. They also shared manipulated photos, divisive narratives and satire and impersonated a local fact checking organization's Page that called out other Pages for spreading fake news. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review found that some of this activity was linked to employees of the Moldovan government."


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