- Facebook has detected a network of fake accounts in the UK that were trying to influence political debate.
- The pages posed as both far-right and anti-far-right activists, spread hate speech, and posted about hot-button political issues.
- The Atlantic Council analysed some of pages and said overall they “seemed design to amplify pro-Islam and anti-extremist messaging.”
Facebook has taken down a network of fake accounts that were attempting to influence British political debate.
On Thursday, the Silicon Valley social networking giant announced it had detected a group of 137 accounts, pages, and groups across Facebook and Instagram that “[engaged] in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a domestic-focused network in the UK,” and that were followed by 175,000 people.
The groups and pages alternately presented themselves as part of the far-right, and as anti-far right activists, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher wrote in a blog post, “to engage in hate speech and spread divisive comments on both sides of the political debate in the UK… They frequently posted about local and political news including topics like immigration, free speech, racism, LGBT issues, far-right politics, issues between India and Pakistan, and religious beliefs including Islam and Christianity.”
The Atlantic Council was given access to some of the content to analyse prior to the takedown, and wrote in a blog post:
“Overall, the network seemed designed to amplify pro-Islam and anti-extremist messaging, including by engaging with anti-Islam commentators. The pages and groups were administered by a cluster of accounts that claimed to be based in the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and Egypt and appeared to have a broader interest in Pakistan.”
Since the 2016 US presidential election drew more scrutiny to abuse on Facebook’s platform, the social network has been battling to take down networks of bad actors trying to use the social network to spread misinformation and influence political debate around the world. Similar efforts have in past been detected everywhere from Iran to Moldova.
“While we are making progress rooting out this abuse, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded,” Gleicher wrote. “We constantly have to improve to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies. Their collaboration was critical to these investigations.”
175,000 people followed at least one of the pages – but it’s not clear how many people in total saw posts from it. (Users often share each others’ posts on Facebook, so the total audience may have been far larger.)
Facebook also announced on Thursday that it had detected a separate influence campaign in Romania and taken action against it.
This story is developing…
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