Facebook ban fake Russian accounts for spreading misinformation
Photo by REUTERS/Dado Ruvic /Files

Ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, Facebook is stepping up its efforts to ensure it is not used as a tool to interfere in politics and democracies around the world.

The company announced it has removed four networks of fake, state-backed misinformation-spreading accounts based in Russia and Iran. These networks sought to disrupt elections in the US, North Africa, and Latin America, the company said. In the past year, Facebook said it has taken down 50 such clusters of accounts, a sign that efforts to use its services to disrupt elections are not letting up.

"Elections have changed significantly since 2016 and Facebook has too," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call Monday. The social media giant faced heavy criticism over failing to prevent fake accounts based in Russia from spreading misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election campaign. The company said Monday that the banned networks "showed links" to Russia's Internet Research Agency, which operated a "troll farm" Washington says was instrumental in interfering with the 2016 vote.

According dw.com, a report released Monday by the social media analytics firm Graphika said the takedown involved 50 accounts on the picture-sharing platform Instagram, half of which claimed to be based in swing states, especially Florida. Graphika said the accounts were all linked to the same operation and claimed to represent activist groups from both sides of the political spectrum with a high potential for polarization.

These included "black activist groups, advocates speaking out against police violence, police supporters, LGBT+ groups, Christian conservatives, Muslims, environmentalists, gun-rights activists, southern Confederates and supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump."

As part of its efforts to clamp down on misinformation, Facebook said it will add more prominent labels on debunked posts on Facebook as well as on Instagram. It will put labels on top of what are deemed "false" and "partly false" photos and videos. But Facebook will continue to allow politicians to run ads containing misinformation. And it hasn't said much about how it handles misinformation spread on its private messaging services such as WhatsApp and Messenger, at least beyond simple measures such as limiting how many times messages can be forwarded.

(Inputs from Agencies)

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