Facebook Removes ‘Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour’ From UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia

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Social network takes down networks of fake accounts and groups tied to three Middle Eastern governments

Facebook has taken down fake accounts, groups and pages being used by three Middle Eastern countries for state propaganda purposes and to attack regional rivals.

Facebook said the takedown of groups “involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram.”

In May Facebook announced that it had disabled 3.4 billion fake accounts in recent months, as part of its policing efforts to prevent its platforms being abused by foreign actors and fake accounts.

 

Fake accounts

Facebook revealed its latest takedown in a post by Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Cybersecurity policy at the firm.

“We found two separate operations: one of which originated in United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and another in Saudi Arabia,” wrote Gleicher.

“The two campaigns we removed were unconnected, but both created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” he said. “We have shared information about our findings with law enforcement, industry partners and policymakers.”

Gleicher said that in total Facebook had removed 259 Facebook accounts, 102 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups, four Facebook Events and 17 Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour that originated in the UAE and Egypt and focused on a number of countries, primarily in the Middle East and some in North and East Africa, including Libya, Sudan, Comoros, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Morocco.

“The people behind this network used compromised and fake accounts – the majority of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems – to run Pages, disseminate their content, comment in Groups and artificially increase engagement,” wrote Gleicher.

“They also impersonated public figures and managed Pages – some of which changed names and admins – posing as local news organisations in targeted countries and promoting content about UAE,” he added.

Saudi Activity

He also said that it had removed 217 Facebook accounts, 144 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups and 31 Instagram accounts that were involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour originating from Saudi Arabia.

“The government of Saudi Arabia has no knowledge of the mentioned accounts and does not know on what basis they were linked to it,” the Center for International Communication, the government’s media office, told Reuters.

But it is not just UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia engaging in this type of behaviour.

In May Facebook gave an update on its Russian account crackdown that peddle fake news, after it deleted a further 97 pages, groups and accounts.

Facebook at the time blamed two operations from Russia that were guilty of creating multiple accounts that were misleading others about who they were and what they were doing.

That action came after Facebook revealed last August it had taken down over 650 Facebook pages and groups that it said were linked to Russia.

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