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  • Facebook has removed accounts of an Israeli firm for meddling in African elections.

    Facebook has removed accounts of an Israeli firm for meddling in African elections. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 May 2019

Facebook banned accounts and pages run by an Israeli company for interfering in elections of foreign countries, especially in Africa.

Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts, pages, and contents by an Israeli company vying to influence foreign politics especially elections.

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The social media giant removed 256 such accounts from Facebook and Instagram on which deceptive political content was promoted by Archimedes Group based in Tel Aviv. The company also purchased US$812,000 worth of advertisement to influence domestic politics mainly in African countries as well as Latin American countries and in South East Asia.

The money was spent between December 2012 and April 2019 and paid for in U.S. dollars, Israeli shekel, and Brazilian reais.

It targeted Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger, and Tunisia. Five of these countries have had elections since 2016 and Tunisia will go to polls later this year.  

“People behind the network used groups of fake accounts to run pages, disseminate content and artificially increase engagement,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters.

“They also represented themselves as locals, including making themselves look like local news organizations and published supposedly leaked information about local politicians. Pages would frequently post about political news, including topics like elections, candidate views and criticisms of candidates’ opponents.”

The organization has been banned from Facebook and been issued a cease and desist letter.

Archimedes Group employs “state-of-the-art technologies and innovative methods” to partake in “many political and public campaigns,” according to its website.

Gleicher said that the firm  “appeared to work on behalf of public figures and political figures, working to push positive narratives about them and to push criticism of their political opponents.”

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