Facebook has disclosed that 265 social media accounts linked to an Israel-based firm has been removed due to what it called “inauthentic behaviour” targeting users mainly in Africa.
The move, according to Facebook is to address concerns over privacy lapses and hate speech in social media.
Facebook launched a fact-checking programme in 2016 shortly after Donald Trump became US president.
BBC reports that in a blog post, Facebook uncovered social media accounts that originated in Israel. These accounts focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia, along with “some activity” in Latin America and South East Asia.
Head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, in the post, wrote: “The people behind this network used fake accounts to run pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement.
“They also represented themselves as locals, including local news organisations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians,”
“An investigation found that some of the activity was linked to Israeli company Archimedes Group.
“This organisation and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter,” he said.
Facebook further disclosed that the people behind the phantom accounts spent around $812,000 (£634,941) for ads between December 2012 and April 2019 and these were paid for in Brazilian reais, Israeli shekel and US dollars.
Five of the six African countries targeted have had elections since 2016, and Tunisia will hold national polls later this year.
Facebook has faced increasing criticism for failing to eradicate misinformation that could affect the way people vote in elections.
With this unprecedented move, Facebook might just be on its way to winning the war against fake news