Facebook removed 2,632 pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that it said were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” connected to Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo. Although the activities from different countries were not linked, they used similar methods of creating a labyrinth of accounts to mislead people about who they were and what they were doing. Facebook took down the pages on the basis of their behaviour, and not their content, it said.
Accounts administered in Iran were also active in India
158 Pages, 263 Facebook accounts, 35 Groups and 57 Instagram accounts which engaged in inauthentic behaviour which were found to be connected to Iran, were removed. The groups operated in six countries including in India, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, and Kazakhstan. Facebook said these accounts were discovered as a follow-up to the over 700 pages, groups, and accounts it removed earlier this year for inauthentic behavior tied to Iran. The activities were typically page admins posing as locals, posting news stories in over two dozen countries, including in India.
- What they did: The page and account admins posed as locals and media entities, impersonated real political groups and media organizations, posted news on current events, frequently “repurposed and amplified” content from Iranian state media.
- Reach: About 1.4 million accounts followed one or more of these pages, 108,000 accounts joined at least one of these groups, and 38,000 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
- What they covered: Topics they covered including sanctions against Iran, tensions between India & Pakistan, terrorism, Indian Politics, Israel & Palestine; conflicts in Syria and Yemen; ; Islamic religious issues; and the recent crisis in Venezuela.
- Advertising spends: Its worth noting that the accounts spent $15,000 USD on ads which were paid for in US dollars, Indonesian rupiah, Indian rupees, Pakistan rupees, Swiss francs and Canadian dollars. The ads ran between December 2013 to a month ago in February.
Removed: a Hardik Pandya fanpage called “The Leaders News”
One of the suspended accounts from India was a Hardik Pandya fan page which was originally created in August 2017, according to The Quint. The page’s name changed several times from “Hardik Pandya Run Machine” to “Hardik Leaders News” a month later, eventually settling on “The Leaders News”. Its unclear what specific activity this page was engaged in or if it spent any money on ads.
Facebook has not specified how many of the suspended accounts operated in India and/or Kashmir, what specific content/spam was distributed in relation to India and Kashmir, whether these accounts were operated by Indian individuals. It is also unclear how much of the ad spend was in Indian rupees.
Russia: 1,907 removals, no ad spend
86 Facebook pages, 64 accounts and 1,757 groups were removed for engaging in spam; a small number of these carried out inauthentic behavior linked to Russia. However, none of these accounts spend money on ads, Facebook said. These accounts primarily posted spam. A small number of these posted content on Ukrainian news and politics, including the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine; local and regional politics; Ukrainian patriotism; refugee issues; Ukrainian military; the situation in Crimea; and corruption. About 50,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and around 1.7 million accounts joined one or more of these Groups.
Macedonia and Kosovo: $5,800 USD ad spend, non-specific content on astrology, celebrities
40 Facebook pages and 172 accounts were removed for inauthentic behavior originating in Macedonia and Kosovo; 685,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages. The people behind these activities operated pages sharing general, non-country specific content like astrology, celebrities and beauty tips. They also ran a small but unspecified number of pages to represent political communities in Australia, UK, and USA, and posted content on nationalism, Islam, and political figures. The pages spent $5,800 on ads paid for in US dollars, euros, pounds and Philippine pesos. The ads ran between October 2013 until till month.
Also read from August 2018: Some of Facebook’s now suspended accounts actually bought & distributed ads. Facebook’s January 2019 blog on removing inauthentic behaviour from Iran, read here.