Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts, pages and groups from its social network platforms that the company says were involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour. More importantly, the social network's investigation revealed that their efforts were coordinated, and that they were all linked to PR firms in the UAE (Charles Communications), Egypt (Flexell) and Nigeria (MintReach).
Facebook, which owns one-time rivals Instagram and WhatsApp, said the accounts were engaged in spreading content on topics like UAE's activity in Yemen, the Iran nuclear deal and the criticism of Qatar, Turkey and Iran.
Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 211 Facebook accounts, 107 Pages, 43 Groups and 87 Instagram accounts. The Instagram profiles were followed by almost 70,000 people.
Some $US300,000 ($444,000) had been spent on Facebook ads to promote the pages' posts, paid mostly in Indonesian rupiah. The company said in its announcement that these takedowns are part of its ongoing investigation into coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region.
The accounts typically posted content localised for a specific country or region, including Australia, often directing users to off-platform sites.
Europe's top court this week ruled Facebook can be ordered to police and remove illegal content worldwide, a ruling the social media giant said could threaten freedom of speech.
"Although the people behind this activity attempted to hide their identities, our investigation found links to an Indonesia media firm InsightID", the company added.
The operation in Indonesia involved a network of over 100 fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram posting content in English and Indonesian either in support or criticising the West Papua independence movement, active in the country's restive easternmost region Papua.
Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 69 Facebook accounts, 42 Pages and 34 Instagram accounts. Some of these Pages appear to be purchased and some changed names over time.
"Although the people behind this activity attempted to hide their identities, our investigation found links to an Indonesia media firm InsightID".
A third operation, originating in Egypt, focused on Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Tunisia, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Qatar, the social media company said.
Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 163 Facebook accounts, 51 Pages, 33 Groups and 4 Instagram accounts.
In a statement by Facebook's Head of Cybersecurity Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher he explained the reasons behind shutting down the pages. groups and accounts on Facebook saying their behaviour to manipulate people rather than contents posted was a major pointer.
Advertising:Less than $31,000 spent on Facebook ads paid for primarily in U.S. dollars and Egyptian pounds.