Facebook Takes Down Fake Accounts

Hundreds of fake Facebook and Instagram accounts were removed by Facebook after they were found to be vehicles for social media attacks in election campaigns in Africa and elsewhere. Facebook said the accounts were operated by an Israeli marketing firm, Archimedes Group, and had been used to influence elections in Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Algeria as well as nine other countries outside Africa. 

Facebook said the accounts has been used to disseminate false information during the campaigns, including defamatory material against candidates. The accounts had also posed as fact checkers and local news organisations. The accounts had a combined following of three million people. Archimedes is believed to have spent $ 800,000 on the campaigns. 

Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab, which had been informed by Facebook beforehand, had determined that the main opposition candidate in the recent Nigerian elections, Atiku Abubakar, had been one of the targets. 

Little is known about Archimedes other than the fact it is linked to a controversial Israeli marketing agency, Grey Content. The group has now been banned from these and other social media platforms. How much damage was inflicted may never be known as the firm seems to have been working since 2012 but used servers in many different countries for its operations.

Meanwhile, Somalia announced a nationwide ban on social media in mid-May in an attempt to stop cheating during its national exams. The Somali government had discovered that copies of the exam papers were being shared and distributed online. Other African governments, such as Ethiopia, have carried out similar bans during examinations. 

As a reminder of the difficulties Africa will continue to have when it comes to digital rights, Ranking Digital Rights 2019 report criticized South African telecom giant MTN on its lack of transparency regarding what it does with its customers’ personal data. The report noted that MTN “divulges very little on how it handles personal data and lacks strong governance mechanisms over human rights issues.”

Removing Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior From Israel

Inauthentic Israeli Facebook Assets Target the World

Facebook Busts Israeli Campaign to Disrupt Elections in African, Asian and Latin American Nations

Insiders Insight: Facebook busts Israeli fake news firm targeting Africa

Somalia will turn off social media access to stop high school exam cheating

Africa’s biggest mobile operator is struggling to protect its users’ digital rights

May 30, 2019

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About the Author

Pramit Pal Chaudhury

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, and Distinguished Fellow & Head, Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri writes on political, security, and economic issues. He previously wrote for the Statesman and the Telegraph in Calcutta. He served on the National Security Advisory Board of the Indian government from 2011-2015. Among other affiliations, he is a member of the Asia Society Global Council, the Aspen Institute Italia, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Mont Pelerin Society. Pramit is also a senior associate of Rhodium Group, New York City, advisor to the Bower Group Asia in India, a member of the Council on Emerging Markets, Washington, DC, and a delegate for the Confederation of Indian Industry-Aspen Strategy Group Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue and the Ananta Aspen Strategic Dialogues with Japan, China and Israel. Born in 1964, he has visited over fifty countries on five continents. Mr. Pal Chaudhuri is a history graduate from Cornell University.