Facebook bans Israeli company that it says tried to manipulate elections in Africa, Asia

PHOTO: A man is reflected on a Facebook logos on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018.PlayJon Nazca/Reuters, FILE
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Facebook has banned an Israeli company and taken down hundreds of its accounts that were aimed at manipulating elections in Africa and southeast Asia, the company announced on Thursday.

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The social media company said that the Israeli company, Archimedes Group, tried to conceal its identity in setting up fake accounts with false information. In all, 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Facebook Pages, Groups and events "involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior" were taken down, Facebook said.

"This activity originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, wrote on the company's site Thursday.

Archimedes Group "has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior," Gleicher wrote. "This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter."

One example of activity by these inauthentic accounts showed that one of them had posted an incendiary statement about a critic of the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Facebook said.

"Faithful to only himself, Martin Fayulu criticizes and rejects the results of the presidential election, which has unfolded transparently and in an exemplary calmness. It is time for him to admit his defeat to president Tshisekedi who has been elected in a democratic way."

PHOTO: Facebook posted screen grabs of accounts that they say were affiliated with the Israeli Archimedes Group that they have deactivated for spreading misinformation. Facebook
Facebook posted screen grabs of accounts that they say were affiliated with the Israeli Archimedes Group that they have deactivated for spreading misinformation.

A representative for Archimedes Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

Archimedes Group operated 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts, Facebook said, with 2.8 million accounts following at least one of the Pages, 5,500 accounts joining at least one of the Groups and about 920 people following one or more of the Instagram accounts.

Gleicher said the Israeli firm spent approximately $812,000 for ads on Facebook paid in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekesl, and U.S. dollars from December 2012 to April 2019..

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