Facebook this week announced that in March it removed a total of 14 networks of accounts from its online services, for spreading deceptive content meant to manipulate public opinion.
Emerging from a total of 11 countries, these networks included a total of 1,167 Facebook accounts and 290 Instagram accounts, as well as 255 pages and 34 groups on Facebook, the social platform announced.
Engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB), these networks focused both on the targeting of individuals outside their countries (five networks, from Albania, Iran, Spain, Argentina, and Egypt), as well as on domestic audiences (nine networks, from Israel, Benin, Comoros, El Salvador, Georgia, and Mexico).
Most of these networks, the social media giant says, were identified and removed before they could gather much traction or have a significant impact.
Containing 128 accounts, 41 pages and 21 groups on Facebook, and 146 Instagram accounts, the network originating from Albania targeted global audiences, including Iran, and was linked to the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) exiled Iranian militant opposition group now based in Albania.
Formed of 29 accounts on Facebook, along with two pages and one group, and an additional 10 Instagram accounts, the network originating from Iran targeted Israel. Facebook disrupted activity from the same threat actor in October 2020.
With a total of 26 Facebook accounts, pages, and Instagram accounts, a network originating in Egypt targeted Ethiopia, Sudan, and Turkey.
Another network, containing 118 Facebook accounts and eight pages, along with ten Instagram accounts, targeted El Salvador. It originated from Spain and El Salvador and was linked to the Italian PR firm Reputation Up, as well as the ARENA party in El Salvador.
A network originating from Spain and Argentina had 390 Facebook accounts and six pages, along with 17 accounts on Instagram and was targeting Ecuador. The network was linked to Spanish social media management firm Leanga Software.
Originating from Israel and targeting domestic audiences, a network of 37 Facebook accounts, along with 20 pages and one Instagram account, was linked to Israeli news website ElBaladd. Facebook also removed a network of 46 Facebook accounts, pages, and Instagram accounts from Benin, also targeting domestic audiences.
Two networks originating from Comoros and Georgia were linked to Centre Médiatique Moderne des Comores (CMMC) and Georgian March, respectively.
A total of five networks originating from Mexico and engaging in the manipulation of domestic audiences in their areas were also removed. Four of the networks originated from a different state in the country, namely Quintana Roo, Colima, Baja California, and Nayarit, while the fifth was linked to PR firm Flow Agency.
“We know that influence operations will keep evolving in response to our enforcement, and new deceptive behaviors will emerge. We will continue to refine our enforcement and share our findings publicly,” Facebook says.