Facebook removes fake political accounts ahead of European Union election

Facebook removes fake political accounts ahead of European Union election
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Facebook reportedly removed more than 20 Italian accounts the social media giant said were misrepresenting themselves or spreading misinformation ahead of European Union (EU) parliamentary elections.

"We have removed a number of fake and duplicate accounts that were violating our authenticity polices," Facebook said Sunday, according to ABC News.

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The 23 pages had a total of more than 2.46 million followers, the campaign group Avaaz, which first brought them to the company’s attention, said. 

A dozen of them supported Italy’s far-right League Party or populist Five Star Movement, Avaaz said, adding that misinformation spread by the pages included anti-Semitic and anti-vaccination comments and invented quotes, such as one claiming journalist Roberto Saviano said he would prefer to save migrants over Italian earthquake victims.

Another page showed footage from a movie purporting to be actual footage of migrants smashing a police car, according to Avaaz. That video has nearly 10 million views, it added.

"This is more proof that lies designed to sow hate and division in our societies are being spread deliberately on social media ahead of the EU elections," Avaaz campaign director Christoph Schott said in a statement. "Facebook has done a good job in taking these pages down, but it says a lot that a multi-billion dollar company is relying on a crowd-funded Avaaz investigation to defend Europe’s democracy. Facebook need to do more, and they need to do it fast."

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the League Party, dismissed the idea that the accounts indicate the need for more government intervention into the spread of false information on social media, according to ABC.

"There is so much fake news even in official newspapers," Salvini said, assuring Italians the elections would be "regular."

The EU parliamentary elections are set to take place from May 23 to May 26.