Facebook takes down ‘fake news’ pages targeting South Africa

 ·1 Feb 2019

Facebook has removed a total of 783 pages, groups and accounts that engaged in ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ on Facebook and Instagram.

In a blog post published on Thursday (31 January), the company said that this activity was directed from Iran and in some cases used repurposed state media content.

A total of 26 countries – including South Africa – were targeted by the accounts.

“These were interconnected and localised operations, which used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Facebook said.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages, groups and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they post,” it said.

“In this case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

Page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as locals, often using fake accounts, and posted news stories on current events, Facebook said.

“This included commentary that repurposed Iranian state media’s reporting on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, including the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

“Some of the activity dates back to 2010. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review linked these accounts to Iran,” it said.

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