According to a blog post, the cybersecurity team at Facebook recently discovered and subsequently took down an entire network of Russian accounts, groups, and pages that were spreading misinformation and lying about their identities to interfere in the affairs of African countries including Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya.
Allegedly, the operations - or 'inauthentic behaviour' to use the official term - of these accounts were not only limited to Facebook, but spread out to Instagram as well. The Menlo Park-based tech giant tallied up the total number of suspicious accounts and pages removed and disclosed the following information about them:
- Presence on Facebook: 35 Facebook accounts, 53 Pages, 7 Groups and 5 Instagram accounts.
- Followers: About 475,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and around 450 people followed one or more of these Groups and around 650 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
- Advertising: Around $77,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in US dollars. The first ad ran in April 2018 and the most recent ad ran in October 2019.
The banned accounts widely discussed local as well as international politics and spread propaganda hoping to influence readers. Some of the most popular topics included Russian, French, and American policies, electoral monitoring by non-governmental authorities in African nations and elections in Madagascar and Mozambique.
Additionally, the security team at Facebook also discovered and took down another 17 Facebook accounts, 18 pages, 3 groups, and six Instagram accounts that focused primarily on Sudan and 14 Facebook accounts, 12 pages, one group, and one Instagram account that focused on Libya - all of which originated in Russia.
Facebook claims that it managed to uncover the identities of these networks and accounts despite their false identities online. The main culprit behind these suspicious operations has been narrowed down to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a formerly indicted Russian businessman with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
As of right now, all findings have been duly reported to the appropriate authorities and legal bodies concerning these hidden operations powered by Russians under false pretences.
Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light and the aftermath that followed, Facebook has been taking extensive measures to prevent and battle issues such as fake news, misinformation and false propaganda being used by parties for harmful reasons or to attain illicit political agendas - all covered under the umbrella term 'inauthentic behaviour'.
Just recently, for example, the social media platform removed some 137 accounts, pages, and groups, from Facebook and Instagram for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour in the UK and Romania. Similar cleansing operations have been carried out regularly in many countries including Brazil, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Philippines.