Facebook has taken down several pages, groups and accounts which originated from UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia due to “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” on Facebook and Instagram. Two separate operations from these countries had created networks of accounts to mislead the people about their operations.

Misleading information spread from UAE and Egypt accounts

  • Facebook said it removed 259 accounts, 102 pages, 5 Facebook groups, 4 Facebook Events and 17 Instagram accounts from UAE and Egypt, the content of which was focused on Libya, Sudan, Comoros, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Morocco.
  • More than 13.7 million accounts followed one or more of these pages and nearly 9,000 accounts joined at least one of these groups.
  • Around 65,000 accounts followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.
  • Approximately $167,000 was spent on Facebook advertisements which were paid in US dollars and Emirati dirhams.
  • 270 were interested in attending in at least one of the 4 events. However, Facebook couldn’t confirm if the events actually took place.

Facebook claims to have detected and disabled the “majority” of these through its automated systems. The accounts were involved in impersonating public figures and ran pages disguising themselves as local news organisations in targeted countries and promoted content about UAE. Marketing companies New Waves in Egypt, and Newave in the UAE were found to be linked behind the network of fake accounts.

The content posted using these accounts involved “local news, politics, elections and topics including alleged support of terrorist groups by Qatar and Turkey, Iran’s activity in Yemen, the conflict in Libya, successes of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and independence for Somaliland,” the blog noted.

A sample of the content taken down

Saudi Arabia accounts post harmful content on conflicts

  • Facebook also removed 217 accounts, 144 pages, 5 Facebook groups and 31 Instagram accounts from Saudi Arabia.
  • About 1.4 million accounts followed one or more of these pages and about 26,000 accounts joined at least one of these suspended groups.
  • Approximately $108,000 was spent on Facebook and Instagram ads which were paid in Saudi riyal and US dollars.

The investigation revealed that the people involved in this activity were linked to the government of Saudi Arabia. The content from these accounts focused majorly on regional news and political issues, including on Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, his economic and social reform plan “Vision 2030,” and successes of the Saudi Armed Forces, particularly during the conflict in Yemen. Some posts also challenged the credibility of Al-Jazeera news network and Amnesty International.

A sample of the content taken down

Accounts from multiple countries taken down last week

This development comes in a week after Facebook revealed that it suspended several accounts and pages originating from Thailand, Russia, Ukraine and Honduras for divisive posts on Thai politics, criticisms on Ukrainian government and glorification on Honduran president.