Facebook takes down 800 accounts linked to Indonesian fake news group

Facebook takes down 800 accounts linked to Indonesian fake news group
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Facebook on Thursday announced that it had taken down hundreds of accounts and pages linked to an Indonesian group accused of spreading misinformation and fake news ahead of the country's elections this year.

The announcement came days after Facebook said that it is setting up election integrity offices in Singapore and Dublin focused on removing misinformation that could disrupt democratic processes.  

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Facebook said it took down 207 pages, 800 accounts and 546 groups, as well as 208 Instagram accounts, linked to the Saracen Group, a social media organization that has previously faced legal troubles over allegedly spreading incendiary materials online. 

"The Saracen Group’s coordinated abuse of the platform using inauthentic accounts is a violation of our policies and we have therefore banned the entire organization from the platform," Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a blog post. 

Indonesia, with a population of more than 260 million, is the world's fourth-largest country.

“About 170,000 people followed at least one of these Facebook Pages, and more than 65,000 followed at least one of these Instagram accounts,” Gleicher said.

Facebook on Monday unveiled new plans for preventing the spread of misinformation ahead of elections in multiple regions, including the European Union, Ukraine, India and Israel. The tech giant said it will be implementing tools that make it easier for users to learn information about groups behind political advertisements, adding that it will put advertisers through a more rigorous authorization process to ensure they are not foreign entities seeking to sway regional elections. 

The changes come as Facebook seeks to stave off critics who claim it has not done enough to prevent disinformation and political manipulation from spreading across the platform. Facebook has dealt with aggressive criticism in the U.S. for more than a year as it seeks to weed out Russian accounts linked to troll farms that sought to manipulate the 2016 U.S. election. 

Referring to the election integrity teams in Singapore and Dublin, Facebook this week said, "These teams will add a layer of defense against fake news, hate speech and voter suppression."