Facebook said it has removed 137 accounts from Facebook and Instagram that were operated by far-right activists in the UK who “frequently changed Page and Group names, and operated fake accounts to engage in hate speech and spread divisive comments on both sides of the political debate in the UK”.
According to Facebook, these fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram platforms were being used by their creators to express divisive and false opinions on a range of topics that included immigration, free speech, racism, LGBT issues, far-right politics, issues between India and Pakistan, and religious beliefs including Islam and Christianity.
Some of these accounts were active since as far back as 2013 and a Facebook Page run by far-right activists was followed by 175,000 other accounts prior to its closure. In all, Facebook removed 23 Pages, 74 Facebook accounts, 5 groups, and 35 Instagram accounts which, it believed, were created to spread disinformation, fake news, and political propaganda.
“We identified these accounts and Pages through an internal investigation into UK-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our assessment benefited from reporting by UK law enforcement. We have shared information about our analysis back with law enforcement, policymakers in the UK, and our industry partners,” Facebook said in a press release.
“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 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.
“While we are making progress rooting out this abuse, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded. We constantly have to improve to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies. Their collaboration was critical to these investigations,” it added.
DCMS questioned Facebook’s willingness to fight disinformation
Facebook’s action against fake news-propagating accounts in the UK comes not long after the social media giant was taken to the cleaners by the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee for failing to prevent the dissemination of disinformation and fake news by foreign actors.
“Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use everyday. Much of this is directed from agencies working in foreign countries, including Russia,” said Damian Collins MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee.
In its final report on disinformation and fake news, the committee squarely blamed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for not only preventing the dissemination of disinformation and fake news but also failing to respond to its queries on Facebook’s conduct before, during and after the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.
The Committee also noted that on the question of actions taken by Facebook to limit disinformation campaigns carried out by Russian actors using its platform, senior executives from Facebook “deliberately misled the Committee or they were deliberately not briefed by senior executives at Facebook, about the extent of Russian interference in foreign elections”.
“Even if Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t believe he is accountable to the UK Parliament, he is to the billions of Facebook users across the world. Evidence uncovered by my Committee shows he still has questions to answer yet he’s continued to duck them, refusing to respond to our invitations directly or sending representatives who don’t have the right information.
“Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies,” said Collins.
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