According to a Press Release from Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity policy, the company removed multiple Pages, Groups and accounts that were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.
It indicates that Facebook identified two distinct operations; one in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and another one in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The statement added that the two campaigns are seemingly unconnected but both developed networks of accounts with the purpose of misleading the public opinion.
Nathaniel Gleicher stated that ” We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages, Groups, and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”
The results of the on-going investigation are alarming. As of today, the company removed 259 Facebook Accounts, 102 Facebook Pages, 5 Five Facebook Groups, 4 Facebook Events, and 17 Instagram Accounts for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior 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.”
Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy explained that those behind the dismantled networks used compromised and fake accounts to run Pages, spread content, comment in Groups and increase engagement in an artificial way. What’s more alarming, is that they also impersonated public figures and managed Pages, posing as local news organizations in targeted countries and promoting content about the United Arab Emirates.
According to the Press Release, “The Page admins and account owners posted about non-country specific topics like fashion, animals, humor, and crafts. They also frequently posted about local news, politics, elections, and topics including alleged support of terrorist groups by Qatar and Turkey, Iran’s activity in Yemen, the conflict in Libya, successes of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and independence for Somaliland.”
The Press Release added that Facebook’s on-going investigation managed to identify those behind the afore-described actions, citing two marketing companies; New Waves in Egypt and NewWave in the United Arab Emirates.
- Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 259 Facebook accounts (200 of which had been previously disabled by our automated systems), 102 Facebook Pages, 5 Facebook Groups, 4 Facebook Events, and 17 Instagram accounts.
- Followers: More than 13.7 million accounts followed one or more of these pages, about 9,000 accounts joined at least one of these groups, and around 65,000 accounts followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.
- Advertising: About $167,000 spent on Facebook ads paid for primarily in US dollars and Emirati dirhams.
- Events: 4 events were hosted by these Facebook Pages. The first was scheduled for June 4, 2018, and the most recent was scheduled for June 19, 2019. Two hundred seventy people expressed interest in at least one of these events.