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Facebook shuts down Israeli attempts to influence elections across globe

The tech giant said it closed down accounts and pages used by Israeli firms to spread 'inauthentic' information around the world
'Our investigation found that some of this activity was linked to an Israeli commercial entity, Archimedes Group,' Facebook said in its statement (AFP)

Facebook has closed down hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts and pages used by Israel-based operators to spread "inauthentic" content across the world and disrupt elections in Asia and Africa. 

In a statement posted online on Thursday, Facebook said that it removed the pages after it found the groups to be involved in "suspected coordinated inauthentic behaviour".

The social media giant noted that an Israeli company called the Archimedes Group was behind some of these pages, which spread deceptive content in countries including Tunisia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger, and parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Based in Tel Aviv, the Archimedes Group states on its website that it involves itself in "political and public campaigns" that include "presidential elections and other social media projects all over the world".

"Although the individuals behind this network attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that some of this activity was linked to an Israeli commercial entity, Archimedes Group," Facebook said in its statement. 

"It has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour. This organisation and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter." 

Facebook did not outline how many accounts belonged to the Archimedes Group, but stated that it had closed down 65 Facebook accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events, and four Instagram accounts. 

'Although the individuals behind this network attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that some of this activity was linked to an Israeli commercial entity' 

- Facebook

The social media giant estimated that about "2.8 million accounts followed one or more of these pages, about 5,500 accounts joined at least one of these groups, and around 920 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts".

The company did not respond to requests for comment at the time of writing. 

The announcement comes after Facebook said it removed a "security flaw" that allowed spyware developed by Israeli technology firm NSO to be installed via the voice call feature on WhatsApp.

In October 2018, Facebook said it had removed dozens of Iranian-linked accounts aimed at "sowing discord" in America. 

Fake accounts have proliferated on Facebook, Twitter and other major online platforms with the aim of swaying political opinion in many countries - leaving the companies scrambling to respond.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.