Facebook has been forced to take action again to remove illegal Russian attempts to influence its users — this time in African countries.
The “coordinated inauthentic behavior” has been linked to notorious Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin, already indicted by the US for funding the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA), which was involved in information warfare efforts ahead of the 2016 US Presidential election.
Facebook removed three separate networks originating in Russia and which targeted Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya.
The first involved the take-down of 35 Facebook accounts, 53 Pages, seven Groups and five Instagram accounts focusing on users in Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.
At least one of the Pages accrued around 475,000 followers, and around $77,000 in advertising was spent.
The next campaign centered around 17 Facebook accounts, 18 Pages, 3 Groups and six Instagram accounts, accruing over 457,000 followers. They re-posed Sudanese state news and Russia propaganda from RT and Sputnik.
Finally, Facebook removed a network of 14 Facebook accounts, 12 Pages, one Group and one Instagram account that originated in Russia and focused on Libya.
As per the other campaigns, they often posted a mix of local and global news from local and Russian sources, on multiple sides of political debate, and from authentic and fake accounts. In this case, the accounts and Pages gained over 241,000 followers and around $10,000 was spent on ads.
“Although the people behind these networks attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation connected these campaigns to entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who was previously indicted by the US Justice Department,” said Facebook head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher.
“We’re taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”