Facebook bans Israeli firm for pushing disinformation campaign in Africa

Facebook bans Israeli firm for pushing disinformation campaign in Africa

Facebook banned an Israeli firm from its platform after it was found to have mounted an effort to use a network of fake accounts to influence politics across West Africa, the social media company announced on Thursday.

Facebook said in a blog post that it believes the Archimedes Group was behind many of the 265 pages and accounts it shut down on Thursday.

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“It has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote of the Archimedes Group. “This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter.”

The Tel Aviv-based firm did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

According to Facebook, the firm’s presence consisted of 65 Facebook accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts. The network’s activity was directed at Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia.

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

Gleicher said that the accounts were taken down because they violated Facebook’s policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and not because of the content they were pushing.

The slogan on Archimedes’s website reads, “Winning Campaigns Worldwide.”

“Archimedes consists of experts from a wide spectrum of fields, consulting, lobbying, public diplomacy, International public relations, information, and social media,” the website reads. “Our teams took significant roles in many political and public campaigns, among them Presidential elections and other social media projects all over the world."