May 16, 2019 - Technology

Facebook cracks down on Israeli-based election disruption campaign

In this image, the F of the Facebook logo is seen on a phone pixelated with numbers.

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook announced on Thursday that it shut down an Israeli network of accounts that spread misinformation and focused on an attempt to disrupt elections and influence individuals in Africa as well as Southeast Asia and Latin America. Facebook linked some of the malicious action to a commercial entity known as Archimedes Group, which it banned from its platform.

Why it matters: Efforts to manipulate Facebook users are becoming more evident around the world. Today’s report suggests that these campaigns are looking to target new areas in Africa and Southeast Asia that typically receive less attention in the "fake news" conversation.

  • The targeted areas are more mobile-dependent than other developed countries, and those populations tend to be more reliant on Facebook and Facebook-owner WhatsApp for news.
  • To date, most of the uncovered incidents of coordinated inauthentic behavior have originated from Russia, Ukraine and Iran and have targeted the U.S., Brazil and the Baltic states.

By the numbers: Facebook found that Archimedes Group paid approximately $812,000 for fake ads on its platform, some of which were still active last month. The first ad reportedly ran in December 2012. Facebook has now deleted 65 accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events, and 4 Instagram accounts associated with Archimedes Group.

  • Some members of Archimedes pretended to be local news organizations that "published allegedly leaked information about politicians," according to Facebook.

Buzz: The company sells a software package with "mass social media campaign and automation tools."

Go deeper: 2018 study found most of Twitter's 2016 fake-news sources still active

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