A total of 443 Facebook accounts, 200 pages and 76 groups, plus 125 Instagram accounts, were removed as Facebook confirmed. The platform removed groups and accounts from areas in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, due to “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” created to mislead users of the platform.
With coordinated inauthentic behaviour Facebook means
“when groups of pages or people work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing.”
One account called USA Thoughts posted inaccurate information about Qatar developing a “Hate App”. In Indonesia, accounts involved in “domestic-focused” issues were accused of spreading news about the deadly protests in the West Papua region.
Social Media Propaganda
Facebook (including Instagram and WhatsApp), said the accounts were actively spreading content on topics like UAE’s activity in Yemen, the Iran nuclear deal and criticism of Qatar, Turkey and Iran.
A recent BuzzFeed News investigation revealed a network of accounts using social media platforms to spread propaganda targeting Iran and Qatar. The accounts, which have now been taken down, appear to have been professionally run by PR firms based in the Middle East and Africa.
Facebook first took notice of websites and pages in the network in August when it deleted hundreds of accounts linked to Egyptian and Emirati marketing firms, but did not connect them to the governments of Egypt and the UAE.
Behaviour vs Content
Those actions are taken to create “networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were, and what they were doing,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy said in the statement.
Altogether the, now deleted, accounts had about 7.5 million followers. Facebook added that it is taking down the accounts “based on their behaviour, not the content they posted”.