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Facebook Removes 652 Pages, Groups and Accounts

Mouhammed Abood

As a part of Facebook’s ongoing efforts to protect its users and prevent abuse across the platform, in addition to providing a safe environment for people to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook; Facebook led a cleanup campaign on its platform, a few days ago.

Facebook announced in an official blog post that their security team has removed multiple Pages, groups, and accounts -which originated in Iran and Russia- for coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.

As explained by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the Facebook company:

‘We just took down networks of coordinated information campaigns from Iran and Russia as part of our efforts to protect against election interference.”

 

On its way to facing, fighting, and conquering false news, in July 2018, it also announced the launch of a cleanup campaign on its platform in Brazil in order to prevent abuse before the Brazilian general election in October.

Facebook depends on a strong collaboration in its campaign including people working more closely with law enforcement, security experts, and other companies, in order to be able to force the people responsible, who are determined and well-funded, out of Facebook.

 

What are Facebook’s investigation findings?!

It’s important point out that the investigation continued for long months to keep an eye on these suspicious Pages, groups, and accounts to understand their playbook and the extent of their network.

Facebook’s investigation consisted of three parts.

At first, by getting help from FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, Facebook succeeded in identifying “Liberty Front Press,” a network of Facebook Pages as well as accounts on other online services, which spread abuse across Facebook’s platform, as reported by Facebook.

“Liberty Front Press” is linked to Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same admins:

  1. The first “Liberty Front Press” accounts were created in 2013.
  2. It primarily posted political content focused on the Middle East, as well as the UK, US, and Latin America.
  3. In 2017, they increased their focus on the UK and US.
  4. Accounts and Pages linked to “Liberty Front Press” typically posed as news and civil society organizations sharing information in multiple countries without revealing their true identity.
  5. “Quest 4 Truth,” is one of its examples.

And these are some of the numbers revealed by the investigation:

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram:  74 Pages, 70 accounts, and 3 groups on Facebook, as well as 76 accounts on Instagram.
  • Followers:  About 155,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages, 2,300 accounts joined at least one of these groups, and more than 48,000 accounts followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising:  More than $6,000 in spending for ads on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in the US and Australian dollars. The first ad was run in Jan 2015, and the last was run in August 2018. Some ads have been blocked since the launch of our political ads transparency tools launched. We have not completed our review of the organic content coming from these accounts.
  • Events:  3 events hosted.
  • Content:  A sample of English-language posts is included below.

 

 

Coming to the second part, Facebook identified links between “Liberty Front Press” and another set of accounts and Pages, the first of which was created in 2016:

  1. They typically posed as news organizations.
  2. They also engaged in traditional cybersecurity attacks.
  3. Trying to hack people’s accounts and spread malware.

And These are some of the results found in the second part of the Facebook investigation:

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 12 Pages and 66 accounts on Facebook, as well as 9 accounts on Instagram.
  • Followers:  About 15,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages and more than 1,100 followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising:  We have found no advertising associated with these accounts or Pages. We have not completed our review of the organic content from these accounts.
  • Events:  We have found no events associated with these accounts or Pages.
  • Content:  A sample of Arabic-language posts is included below.

 

Finally, in the third part, Facebook also was able to discover another set of accounts and Pages, the first of which was created in 2011, which:

  1. Largely shared content about Middle East politics in Arabic and Farsi.
  2. They also shared content about politics in the UK and US in English.
  3. In August 2017, they had been discovered for the first time by Facebook.

And These are some of the results found in the last part of the Facebook investigation:

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram:  168 Pages and 140 accounts on Facebook, as well as 31 accounts on Instagram.
  • Followers:  About 813,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages and more than 10,000 followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising:  More than $6,000 in spending for ads on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in US dollars, Turkish lira, and Indian rupees. The first ad was run in July 2012, and the last was run in April 2018. We have not completed our review of the organic content coming from these accounts.
  • Events:  25 events hosted.
  • Content:  A sample of English-language posts is included below.

According to the previous results; Facebook takes some steps to benefit from these results, such as prevent people in Iran and other sanctioned countries from using its ad tools and develops systems able to check every advertiser to explore their current location and whether they’re named on the US government’s list of sanctioned individuals. In addition to rolling out some updates to better detect people who try to evade Facebook’s sanctions compliance tools and prevent them from advertising.

As said by Facebook:

“We’re working closely with US law enforcement on this investigation, and we appreciate their help. These investigations are ongoing – and given the sensitivity we aren’t sharing more information about what we removed.”

Finally, we can say that recently, Facebook has been making several attempts to prevent the usage of its platform in Political conflicts across the world, specifically after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

 

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