Facebook can’t find local news to share


Facebook removed thousands of pages and accounts linked to Russia and Iran for spreading misinformation and engaging in "inauthentic behavior."
Image: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook just took down multiple misinformation campaigns linked to Russia and Iran.

On Tuesday, the social network announced it had removed 2,632 Facebook Pages, Groups and accounts that “engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior” on both Facebook and Instagram.

Most of the accounts removed by Facebook this time around were connected to Russia. But, the company says the majority of the accounts were removed for spam-related activity. In total, the social network removed 1,907 Russian-linked pages, groups and accounts. The “small portion” of accounts that were setup to spread misinformation mostly posted content related to political issues and conflicts in Ukraine. Around 1.7 million accounts were part of the 1,757 Facebook Groups that were removed. The company also took down 86 Pages and 64 Facebook accounts.

In addition to the Russia-linked accounts, Facebook announced that it had removed 513 Pages, Groups and accounts connected to Iran for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. The Iranian-linked pages proved to be more overtly political in nature than the latest round of Russian accounts. Facebook found that many of these accounts were impersonating actual political groups and posing as legitimate media organizations. Many of the stories posted by these accounts attempted to inflame tensions between India and Pakistan as well as Israel and Palestine. Other tops that were frequently posted about include the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, the crisis in Venezuela, and terrorism. According to Facebook, this particular operation was broadly spread out across the Middle East and North Africa.

An example of an image posted by an account linked to Iran posing as a BBC-related outlet.

Image: Facebook

In total, Facebook removed 158 Pages, 263 Facebook accounts, 35 Groups and 57 Instagram accounts connected to Iran. The company says about 1.4 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages. These accounts spent around $15,000 on Facebook ads between December 2013 and February 2019.

Facebook also shared that it had removed 212 Facebook Pages, Groups and accounts linked to Macedonia and Kosovo for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. The users behind these accounts shared beauty tips and celebrity news in addition to running pages posing as various political groups in the U.S., UK, and Australia. Around 685,000 accounts followed one or more of the 40 pages connected to Macedonia and Kosovo. The accounts ran about $5,800 in Facebook ads between October 2013 and March 2019. 

Faced with mounting criticism over the years, Facebook started to center its war on misinformation in 2018. The company has specifically targeted pages, accounts, and groups  that engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Facebook classifies this sort of behavior as a user or organization setting up “networks of accounts” in order to “mislead others about who they are or what they’re doing.”

The social networking behemoth has shut down a slew of Russia-linked pages and accounts following the revelation that Russian state-backed trolls spread misinformation on Facebook to influence the 2016 presidential election.

In recent months, the social network has discovered multiple instances of Iranian-linked misinformation networks on its platform. Before this most recent purge, Facebook had already removed more than one thousand pages and accounts in total connected to Iran.

Facebook has also had to reckon with fake news in countries like Myanmar and Indonesia, places where the spread of misinformation on the social network’s platforms have had deadly consequences.

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