Facebook takes down 2,632 pages, groups, and accounts in its seemingly endless war on misinformation

mark zuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain.Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

  • Facebook announced it removed over 2,600 pages, groups, and accounts for engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior."
  • It identified three distinct operations originating in Russia, Iran, and Kosovo and Macedonia.
  • While the Russian operation was the largest, the Iranian and Kosovan-Macedonian operations spent a combined total of $20,800 on ads since 2013.

Facebook on Tuesday announced that it removed 2,632 pages, groups, and accounts for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" on both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook identified three separate operations originating from Iran, Russia, and Kosovo and Macedonia.

The Russian operation was the largest, with a total of 1,907 pages, groups, and accounts removed. Primarily, the Russian network produced spam, although a smaller number of its pages posted news relating to Ukraine.

Russian spamAn example of spam content put out by the Russian network. The caption reads: Urgent! We are looking for candidates for the role of an information manager. FOR WOMEN! Work is remote and in your spare time, career opportunities. If you want to earn, you are from 18 to 60 y.o., you have average computer skills and internet access, then leave +++ in the comments or reach out in pm.Facebook

According to Facebook, one or more of the groups run by the Russian operation had a membership of 1.7 million.

Second largest was the Iranian network, which comprised of 513 pages, groups, and accounts and was more overtly politicised. According to Facebook, the Iranian network both invented fake media organisations and posed as legitimate ones, as well as political groups.

The topics this network chose to amplify included among others: Sanctions against Iran, tensions between India and Pakistan, and tensions between Israel and Palestine.

Iranian misinformationAn Instagram post from the Iranian network seemingly impersonating the BBC.Facebook

It spent roughly $15,000 on ads, which it took out from as far back as 2013, all the way up to February this year.

This isn't the first time Facebook has caught Iranian-backed accounts passing themselves off as real news organisations. In August 2018, Facebook announced it had been tipped off to a network of Iran-backed sites called the "Liberty Front Press" by cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Read more: Facebook says Iran-backed accounts pretended to be news organizations to spread information and to launch cyber attacks

The final and smallest coordinated network with 212 pages, groups, and accounts removed stemmed from Kosovo and Macedonia. It mostly produced innocuous lifestyle content about topics like astrology, celebrities, and beauty tips.

A small number of pages, however, posed as political groups from Australia, the UK and the US, and posted content about political and religious topics, including Britain's exit from the European Union.

Fake news Brexit Kosovo MacedoniaAn example of a political post, concerning Brexit.Facebook

The Kosovan-Macedonian network also spent money on ads (roughly $5,800), which similarly ran from 2013 until March this year.

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