By Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy

Today we removed multiple Pages, groups and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. The two domestic operations we found originated in the UK and Romania. We didn’t find any links between these sets of activities, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.

We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.

While we are making progress rooting out this abuse, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded. We constantly have to improve to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies. Their collaboration was critical to these investigations.

We’ll update this post with more details when we have them, or if the facts change.

What We’ve Found So Far

Today we removed 137 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a domestic-focused network in the UK. The individuals behind these accounts represented themselves as far-right and anti-far-right activists, frequently changed Page and Group names, and operated fake accounts to engage in hate speech and spread divisive comments on both sides of the political debate in the UK. Despite their misrepresentation of their identities, we found that these Pages, Groups and accounts were connected. They frequently posted about local and political news including topics like immigration, free speech, racism, LGBT issues, far-right politics, issues between India and Pakistan, and religious beliefs including Islam and Christianity.

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 23 Pages, 74 Facebook accounts, 5 Groups, and 35 Instagram accounts.
  • Followers: About 175,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, and around 4,500 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising: Around $1,500 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in US dollars and GB pounds. The first ad ran in December 2013, and the most recent ad ran in October 2018. We have not completed a review of the organic content coming from these accounts.

We identified these accounts and Pages through an internal investigation into UK-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our assessment benefited from reporting by UK law enforcement. We have shared information about our analysis back with law enforcement, policymakers in the UK, and our industry partners.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Separately, we also removed 31 Facebook Pages, Groups, and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a network that operated in Romania and used a combination of fake accounts and some authentic accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing. The Page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues, including partisan news under fictitious bylines in support of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). They also shared divisive narratives and promoted content hosted by several domains that present themselves as news sites. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review found that some of this activity was linked to an individual associated with the PSD.

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 4 Pages, 26 Facebook accounts, and 1 Group.
  • Followers: About 1,550 Facebook accounts followed one or more of these Pages.
  • Advertising: Around $650 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in USD, EUR, and Romanian Leu. The first ad ran in December 2013, and the most recent ad ran in February 2019. We have not completed a review of the organic content coming from these accounts.

Our assessment benefited from open source reporting and analysis by our security industry partners who investigate this kind of activity.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:
Caption: Lia Olguta Vasilescu, one of the most hard-working ministers in the Government, after being denied by Klaus Iohannis for the Ministry of Transport and Development, received several other functions. As the social democrats could not go without one of the most hard-working people in the party, Olguta Vasilescu, at the request of Prime Minister Dancila, became an honorary advisor to the Prime Minister, but also the party spokeswoman. The proposal was made by the PSD President himself, Liviu Dragnea.
Headline: Lia Olguta Vasilescu, Secretary of the Chamber of Deputies – deStanga

Headline: SRU Knows Another Kind of Economy
Text: Those from SRU know another kind of economy. Their economy is from a parallel society and the ones who keep promising to us the salvation of Romania seem to be a part of that society.

Headline: NLP is Preparing to Lose
Text: NLP is preparing to lose the European elections.

Headline: The Noisiness of Certain People from EP Covers Kovesi’s Professional Gaps

Caption: Ciolos is trying by all means to prove that he loves the communist way of thinking, this comes after he used to promote the right-wing extremists such as Avram Fitu. Lately, being led by a patriotic feeling, Ciolos also supports Oana-Maria Bogdan, member of PLUS National Council. “Oana-Maria Bogdan is the kind of woman which is needed by the romanian politics in order to gain more substance, humanity and justice,” wrote Ciolos on his Facebook page.
Headline: The weirdos of Ciolos. Are we ready to live again in caves? – Time Zero

Caption: The opposition got us already used with the launch of all kinds of fake news in the market. As a result of their fierce fear of losing the elections, brought upon them by the numbers, they are trying by all possible means to spread panic in the society.
Why it can’t be dismantled the II pensions pillar? Very simple. No one can leave the private pension fund they are currently contributing to, before 5 years.
Headline: Opposition’s Lies. EO 114 is Not Abolishing the II Pillar of Pensions

 

You can read the Romanian translation of the above post here.