Facebook uncovered two separate influence campaigns, one originated in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and another in Saudi Arabia.
The campaigns appeared to be distinct and involved “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Facebook and its Instagram.
“This week, we removed multiple Pages, Groups and accounts that were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. We found two separate operations: one of which originated in United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and another in Saudi Arabia.” reads the post published by Facebook.
One of the influence campaigns was conducted by individuals linked to the government of Saudi Arabia. Threat actors used a network of fake accounts and pages on Facebook to promote state propaganda.
The company announced to have removed 217 Facebook accounts, 144 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups and 31 Instagram accounts that were involved in the campaign. The inauthentic behavior was originating from Saudi Arabia and focused primarily on the Middle East and Northern Africa, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan.
Operators behind this campaign posed as locals in targeted countries, they disseminated their content through a network of fake accounts and pages created by fictitious personas.
Facebook observed that the content posted by the threat actors aimed at express criticism of neighboring countries including Iran, Qatar and Turkey. They also called into question the credibility of Al-Jazeera news network and Amnesty International.
Facebook has no doubts, the campaign was orchestrated by individuals associated with the government of Saudi Arabia.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found links to individuals associated with the government of Saudi Arabia.” continues the post.
Below the findings shared by the social network about this influence campaign.
Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 217 Facebook accounts, 144 Facebook Pages, 5 Facebook Groups and 31 Instagram accounts.Followers: About 1.4 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 26,000 accounts joined at least one of these Groups, and around 145,000 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.Advertising: Around $108,000 spent on Facebook and Instagram ads paid for in Saudi riyal and US dollars.The second influence campaign seems to be carried out by individuals from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and focused on countries in the Middle East as well as in northern and eastern Africa, including Libya,Sudan, Comoros, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Morocco.
Facebook removed 259 Facebook accounts, 102 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups, four Facebook Events and 17 Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.
Below the data published in the post:
Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 259 Facebook accounts (200 of which had been previously disabled by our automated systems), 102 Facebook Pages, 5 Facebook Groups, 4 Facebook Events, and 17 Instagram accounts.Followers: More than 13.7 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 9,000 accounts joined at least one of these Groups, and around 65,000 accounts followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.Advertising: About $167,000 spent on Facebook ads paid for primarily in US dollars and Emirati dirhams.Events: 4 events were hosted by these Facebook Pages. The first was scheduled for June 4, 2018, and the most recent was scheduled for June 19, 2019. Two hundred seventy people expressed interest in at least one of these events. We cannot confirm whether any of these events actually occurred.Facebook continues to fight any abuse of its platform, especially the influence campaigns aimed at destabilizing the political contest in specific geographic areas.
Facebook recently also announced that it removed multiple pages, groups, and accounts tied to Russia involved in influence campaigns ahead of the election in Ukraine.
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