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30.10.2019 Africa

Facebook: Russian disinformation campaign targeted Africa

By AFP
Facebook said a disinformation campaign targeting African countries was linked to an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.  By LOIC VENANCE (AFP/File)
OCT 30, 2019 AFRICA
Facebook said a disinformation campaign targeting African countries was linked to an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. By LOIC VENANCE (AFP/File)

Facebook said Wednesday it took down accounts linked to a Russian ally of President Vladimir Putin seeking to spread disinformation on the social network in eight African countries.

The operations hiding behind fake identities were linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been indicted in the United States in connection with an influence campaign targeting the 2016 US elections.

"Each of these operations created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing," Facebook cybersecurity chief Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement.

"We have shared information about our findings with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners."

The accounts originated in Russia and targeted Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, according to Facebook.

The move is the latest effort by the social media giant to halt foreign influence efforts in the United States and other parts of the world.

The company described three separate operations targeting both Facebook and Instagram users.

One operation included 35 accounts and 53 pages that focused on Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

The effort attracted some 475,000 followers and spent $77,000 for ads posting on global and local political news including Russian policies in Africa and criticism of French and US policies.

A separate operation targeting Sudan included 20 different accounts and 18 pages, some posing as news organizations.

The third network, focused on Libya, involved 15 accounts and 12 pages posting about local news and geopolitical issues.

"We're constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people," Gleicher said.

"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."

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