Facebook says it removed five foreign influence campaigns in February

Facebook says it removed five foreign influence campaigns in February
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Facebook on Monday said it removed five online misinformation campaigns connected to foreign countries in February, the latest indication of governments seeking to sow discord using one of Silicon Valley's most powerful social media networks.

Facebook disclosed the information, which it partially revealed last month, in its first monthly report about coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB), the company's term for networks of fake accounts and pages aimed at manipulating public conversations.

"Starting this month, we will begin publishing information about all networks we take down over the course of a month as part of regular CIB reports to make it easier for people to see progress we’re making in one place," Facebook said Monday.

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The company said it removed foreign influence campaigns originating in India, Egypt, Russia, Iran and Myanmar. Some of those campaigns were government-backed. Overall, the platform purged nearly 500 Facebook accounts, more than 1,200 Instagram accounts, 248 pages and 49 groups in February.

The social media giant has been under pressure to show that it is ramping up efforts to combat online foreign interference campaigns following enormous scrutiny for failing to head off a widespread Russian misinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

The platform said it is seeking to differentiate between CIB in general — which consists of fake accounts that promote certain messages, often for financial gain — and networks of fake accounts backed by foreign governments. Government-backed inauthentic networks face the most aggressive enforcement responses, Facebook said.

Some of the content removed in February had explicit political undertones, including cartoonish Instagram posts about Yemen and posts about Somalia, whereas other elements of the campaigns focused on religious messaging and sports.

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab in a report published Monday wrote, "While some of the Instagram accounts, Facebook pages, and Facebook groups were overt in their political messaging, others postured as benign platforms sharing humorous or uplifting content, promoting fashion, or presenting as regional civilian news outlets."