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Facebook Takes Down Misleading Campaigns From Iraq, Ukraine

Facebook this week announced that it removed multiple pages, groups, and accounts engaged in misleading behavior on the social platform.

Spreading coordinated inauthentic content on Facebook and Instagram, the campaigns originated from Iraq and Ukraine, but were not related to one another. Each of them, however, created networks of accounts to mislead users about who they were and what they were doing.

Facebook’s action was focused on stopping the manipulation operations by taking down the pages, groups and accounts involved in the behavior, and not the content they posted. The reason for that was that the actors were coordinated and employed fake accounts to misrepresent themselves.

“We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge. We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead,” Facebook says.

Facebook’s takedown operation involved removing 76 accounts, 120 pages, one group, two events and seven Instagram accounts that it found “engaging in domestic-focused coordinated inauthentic behavior in Iraq.”

The threat actor used fake accounts to amplify content and manage pages, and also merged many pages and changed their names over time. They also impersonated other people in an attempt to avoid detection and removal.

Posts were typically about domestic political and societal issues, including religion, public figures, the state of the military under the Saddam Hussein rule, tensions with Iran, the actions of the US military in Iraq, as well as Iranian-backed militia operating in Iraq and Kurdish-Iraqi politics.

According to Facebook, less than 1.6 million accounts followed one or more pages, around 339,000 accounts joined at least one group, and around 2,000 people followed one or more Instagram accounts.

The actor spent less than $1,600 on Facebook and Instagram ads, and hosted two events on these pages: one scheduled for February 2016 and the other for May 2016.

“Up to 15 people expressed interest in at least one of these events. We cannot confirm whether any of these events actually occurred,” Facebook notes.

The social platform also removed 168 accounts, 149 pages and 79 groups that engaged in inauthentic behavior in Ukraine. Fake accounts were used to manage groups and a number of pages, increase engagement, disseminate content, and direct users to third-party sites posing as news outlets.

Posts were typically about celebrities, show business, sports, local and international news, political and economic issues, including Ukrainian elections, political candidates, and criticism of public figures. Facebook managed to link the activity to Pragmatico, a Ukrainian PR firm.

According to Facebook, less than 4.2 million accounts followed one or more of these pages and about 401,000 accounts joined at least one of these groups. The threat actor spent around $1.6 million on Facebook and Instagram ads.

Related: Faked Facebook Accounts Linked to Saudi Arabia, Mideast Region

Related: Facebook Figures Five Percent of Accounts Are Fake

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