African Elections Targeted With Fake Facebook Accounts

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has banned Israeli company Archimedes Group from its social media platform for using fake accounts in attempts to influence elections in Africa, as well as in some other countries around the world. According to a blog post from Facebook, the company primarily targeted Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger, and Tunisia, but also attempted to influence elections in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Facebook wrote in the post: “This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter.”

The blog post by Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said that the company’s accounts were removed for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” saying that the page administrators and account owners “represented themselves as locals, including local news organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians.” The post continued: “The Page administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents.”

A website appearing to belong to the Archimedes Group states that the company “took significant roles in many political and public campaigns, among them Presidential elections and other social media projects all over the world.” The Israeli company reportedly spent more than $800,000 running Facebook ads from December 2012 to April 2019. Those ad were paid for using Brazilian reals, Israeli shekesl, and U.S. dollars.

As part of the ban, Facebook has removed hundreds of fake Facebook and Instagram pages associated with the company. According to Facebook, Archimedes Group operated 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events pages, and four Instagram accounts, making a total of 265 taken down. There were 2.8 million accounts following at least one of the Pages, 5,500 accounts joining at least one of the Groups, and roughly 920 people following one or more of the Instagram accounts.