Facebook today said it detected dozens of Facebook accounts that were engaging in election interference and other forms of public manipulation via news and social media, directed primarily at West African countries. What’s especially noteworthy about this announcement is the source. Israeli commercial entity Archimedes Group was behind the behavior. The Verge reports: The goal ostensibly was to have some type of effect on local elections and the political atmosphere, although Facebook says it can’t divine the exact intentions of the group and there is no indication that it was in any way linked to the Israeli government. Although it was centered on West African countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Niger, Facebook also detected activity aimed at users in Angola, Tunisia, and parts of Southeast Asia and South America.
As a result, Facebook says it’s shut down 65 Facebook accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, and 12 events. It also detected and shut down four Instagram accounts related to the effort. It’s also banned Archimedes Group and all of its subsidiaries, and Facebook sent a cease and desist letter to the company. On its website, Archimedes Group’s tagline is, “Winning elections worldwide.” It advertises itself as a kind of consultant for social media marketing related to elections, writing, “When approaching a client’s challenge, we address all possible facets relating to it. We then formulate a concise yet comprehensive solution that will use every tool and take every advantage available in order to change reality according to our client’s wishes.”
In a blog post, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote: “The people behind this network used fake accounts to run Pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement. They also represented themselves as locals, including local news organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians. The Page administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents.”
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