On Tuesday, Facebook said that it had withdrawn two Russian-based networks and one connected to the French military, accusing them of carrying out campaigns of interference in Africa.
Two networks running numerous Facebook accounts were allocated to individuals affiliated with the Russian Internet Analysis Department, and the third, the social media site said, had “links to individuals associated with the French military,”
For violating its stance against international or government intervention, all three were banned from the platform, Facebook said, adding that the networks targeted countries mostly in North Africa and some in the Middle East.
No immediate statement on the accusations was made by the French military.
In a blog, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security strategy for Facebook, and David Agranovich, head of global threat destruction, said the campaigns had to go online with each other.
“This was the first time our team found two campaigns — from France and Russia — actively engage with one another, including by befriending, commenting and criticizing the opposing side for being fake,” they added.
As a central part of their operations, the networks “used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing, and that was the basis for our action,” Facebook said.
The Central African Republic and Mali and to a lesser degree, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Chad were attacked by the French network.
84 facebook profiles, 6 sites, 9 communities, and 14 Instagram accounts were involved, breaching the ‘coordinated inauthentic conduct’ regulation.
In French and Arabic, some of the articles focused on France’s Francophone African affairs, reports of Russian intervention in the CAR polls, positive statements on the French military, and criticism of Russia.
“The Russian imperialists are a gangrene on Mali!” read a Facebook-shared sample message.
The social network deleted 274 Facebook profiles and 18 Instagram accounts, along with a number of communities and sites, in the disruption of the two Russian networks.
“We shared information about our findings with law enforcement and industry partners,” Gleicher and Agranovich said.
“We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing effort and we’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead.”