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Removing Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior from France and Russia

Today we removed three separate networks for violating our policy against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) on behalf of a foreign or government entity. These networks originated in France and Russia and targeted multiple countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Over the past three years, we’ve shared our findings on over 100 networks of [coordinated__inauthentic__behavior] we detected and removed from our platforms. Earlier this year, we started publishing monthly CIB reports where we share information about the networks we take down to make it easier for people to see the progress we’re making in one place. In some cases, like today, we also share our findings soon after our enforcement.

Before we share the details on each network, here are a few trends to note.

Each of the networks we removed today targeted people outside of their country of origin, primarily targeting Africa, and also some countries in the Middle East. While we’ve seen influence operations target the same regions in the past, this was the first time our team found two campaigns — from France and Russia — actively engage with one another, including by befriending, commenting and criticizing the opposing side for being fake. It appears that this Russian network was an attempt to rebuild their operations after our October 2019 takedown, which also coincided with a notable shift in focus of the French campaign to begin to post about Russia’s manipulation campaigns in Africa.

What We Found

The people behind this activity used fake accounts — some of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to pose as locals in the countries they targeted, post and comment on content, and manage Pages and Groups. They posted primarily in French and Arabic about news and current events including France’s policies in Francophone Africa, the security situation in various African countries, claims of potential Russian interference in the election in the Central African Republic (CAR), supportive commentary about French military, and criticism of Russia’s involvement in CAR. Some of these accounts also commented on the content that criticized France posted by one of the Russian operations.

This network used a combination of fake and compromised accounts — some of which had been already detected and disabled by our automated systems — to comment, amplify their own content, drive people to off-platform domains and run Groups and Pages posing as news and civic-focused entities.

This network posted primarily in French, English, Portuguese and Arabic about news and current events, including COVID-19 and the Russian vaccine against the virus, the upcoming election in CAR, terrorism, Russia’s presence in Sub-Saharan Africa, supportive commentary about the CAR government, criticism of the French foreign policy and a fictitious coup d’etat in Equatorial Guinea. Some of these accounts commented on the content by the France-based CIB network described above, including in response to its criticism of Russia.

3. We also removed 211 Facebook accounts, 126 Page, 16 Groups and 17 Instagram accounts for [coordinated__inauthentic__behavior]. This network originated in Russia and focused primarily on Libya, Sudan and Syria.

This operation used fake accounts — many of which had been detected and removed by our automated systems at the time of creation or soon thereafter — to post in Groups, amplify the off-platform domains posing as news outlets, evade enforcement, and manage Pages masquerading as news entities and military-affiliated entities in Libya. These accounts posed as locals based in the countries they targeted.

The people behind this activity posted primarily in Arabic about regional news and events, including misinformation; supportive commentary about Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, the Libyan army, and Saif Islam Gaddafi; and criticism of Turkey, Muslim Brotherhood, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the peace talks at the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunisia.

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Jan 02, 2021 at 14:48

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