Facebook Bans Israeli Firm For Election Meddling

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Facebook has banned an Israeli company from its platform after detecting a massive, coordinated attempt to influence voters in Africa.

In a blog post yesterday, head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, revealed his team had been forced to remove 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Facebook Pages, Groups and events involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” managed by Archimedes Group.

In total, the shadowy Israeli firm ran 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts. Its efforts reached a fairly wide audience, with around 2.8 million accounts following one or more of the Pages, while 5,500 accounts joined at least one of the Groups and around 920 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.

“The people behind this network used fake accounts to run Pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement. They also represented themselves as locals, including local news organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians,” Gleicher explained.

“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.”

Originating in Israel, the moves targeted users in Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia, with Facebook also claiming to have found some suspicious activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Around $812,000 was spent on Facebook ads paid for in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekel, and US dollars. They ran from 2012 to 2019, which raises questions about why they weren’t spotted sooner.

“Coordinated inauthentic behavior” is the same moniker used to describe the activity of Russian state-sponsored attempts to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential election, which resulted in the indictment of 13 Russians and three companies from the country.

Archimedes Group, whose tagline is “winning campaigns worldwide,” has now been banned from the social network along with all its subsidiaries and issued with a cease and desist letter.

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