Facebook has announced it removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages, groups, and events from its service Thursday because of what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
Social media giant Facebook said that it has banned an Israeli company that ran an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and has canceled dozens of accounts engaged in spreading disinformation.
Facebook said the “inauthentic” activity originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia as well as in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
“It’s a real communications firm making money through the dissemination of fake news,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank collaborating with Facebook to expose and explain disinformation campaigns.
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‘Change reality’: Facebook busts Israel-based campaign to disrupt elections
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that the tech giant had purged 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts. Many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm that boasts of its social media skills and ability to “change reality.”
“The people behind this network used fake accounts to run pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement,” Nathaniel , head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook said in an official statement.
“The page administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents,” Gleicher said. “We’re taking down these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted.”
Although the individuals behind this network attempted to conceal their identities, Facebook investigation found that some of this activity was linked to an Israeli commercial entity, Archimedes Group. It has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter.
- Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events and 4 Instagram accounts.
- Followers: About 2.8 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 5,500 accounts joined at least one of these Groups and around 920 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
- Advertising: Around $812,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekel, and US dollars. The first ad ran in December 2012 and the most recent ad ran in April 2019.
- Events: Nine events were hosted by these Pages. The first was scheduled for October 2017 and the most recent was scheduled for May 2019. Up to 2,900 people expressed interest in at least one of these events, and a portion of their accounts were previously identified and disabled as fake. We cannot confirm whether any of these events actually occurred.
Archimedes Group: The Israeli entity behind network of ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior’
Facebook said it has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the organization responsible for the posts, which it named as Archimedes Group. It said the group and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook for “repeatedly” violating Facebook policies.
Archimedes’ chief executive is Elinadav Heymann, according to Swiss negotiations consultancy Negotiations.CH, where he is listed as one of the group’s consultants.
A biography posted to the company’s website describes him as the former director of the Brussels-based European Friends of Israel lobbying group, a former political adviser in Israel’s parliament and an ex-intelligence agent for the Israeli Air Force.