Facebook Inc. said it took down a contingent of groups, pages, and accounts attempting to artificially boost certain ideas in the Middle East and Africa, including some accounts they said it was discussed the independence for Somaliland.
The group included 259 Facebook Accounts, 102 Facebook Pages and five Facebook Groups and spent $167,000 on Facebook ads to boost their messages, the company said in a blog post. The accounts discussed “topics including alleged support of terrorist groups by Qatar and Turkey, Iran’s activity in Yemen, the conflict in Libya, successes of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and independence for Somaliland.
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said: “Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found links to individuals associated with the government of Saudi Arabia.”
Facebook has been working to remove political messages that get a boost from people misidentifying themselves to prevent a repeat of the type of manipulation that occurred in the 2016 election campaign. The company said the activity it shut down was linked to two Middle East marketing firms — New Waves in Egypt and Newave in the UAE.
They focused their efforts on a number of countries, primarily in the Middle East and some in North and East Africa, including Libya, Sudan, Comoros, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Morocco.
Since the 2016 presidential election, FB has removed numerous networks of coordinated accounts originating in countries including Russia and Iran. While these accounts tend to post content that is political or divisive in nature, Facebook maintains that it removes them for misleading others on the platform about their true identity — not for the content of their posts.