Facebook closes fake accounts linked to the French military and Russia

Facebook said on Tuesday that it had removed two networks based in Russia and one linked to the French military and accused them of conducting interference campaigns in Africa.

Two networks running multiple Facebook accounts were assigned to people associated with the Russian Internet Research Agency, and the third had “links to individuals associated with the French military,” the social media platform said.

All three were removed from the site to violate their policy against foreign or state interference, Facebook said, adding that the networks were targeted primarily at countries in northern Africa and some in the Middle East.

The French military did not immediately comment on the allegations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, and David Agranovich, head of global threats, said in a blog that the campaigns dueled with each other online.

“This was the first time our team found two campaigns – from France and Russia – actively engaging with each other, including by making friends, commenting and criticizing the opposite side for being fake,” they said.

The networks “used fake accounts as a central part of their business to mislead people about who they are and what they do, and that was the basis of our action,” Facebook said.

The French network targeted the Central African Republic and Mali, and to a lesser extent, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Chad.

It involved 84 Facebook accounts, 6 pages, 9 groups and 14 Instagram accounts that violated the policy of “coordinated unauthentic behavior.”

Some of the posts, in French and Arabic, dealt with France’s policy in Francophone Africa, allegations of Russian interference in CAR elections, supportive comments on the French military and criticism of Russia.

“The Russian imperialists are a gang in Mali!” read an example of a post shared by Facebook.

By disrupting the two Russian networks, the social network deleted 274 Facebook accounts and 18 Instagram accounts, along with a number of groups and pages.

“We shared information about our results with law enforcement and industry partners,” Gleicher and Agranovich said.

“We are making progress in eradicating this addiction, but as we have said before, it is an ongoing work and we are determined to constantly improve in order to stay ahead.”