Facebook pulled down hundreds of fake accounts tied to Uganda and Palestine in January that misled users about their identity and purpose, the social network said Tuesday. The account takedowns are part of Facebook’s ongoing effort to combat misuse of its platform.
The social network removed 220 accounts, 32 Pages, 59 groups and 139 Instagram accounts targeting users in Uganda early last month for violating its policy against government interference. Facebook said it had to move quickly because of the Jan. 14 general elections held in the east African country. President Yoweri Museveni was re-elected for a sixth five-year term amid allegations of voter fraud. The results are being challenged in court, Reuters reported. Museveni has denied the accusations.
Facebook linked the network to the Government Citizens Interaction Center at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, a government agency in Uganda. Some of the fake accounts posted content supporting Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement party, Facebook said. (Twitter also took action against a “number of Twitter accounts” for violating its rules against platform manipulation and linked them with the same agency.) The Government Citizens Interaction Center didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The crackdown underscores the scope of the fake account problem Facebook deals with around the world. The company reports account takedowns in a monthly report.
“Tackling this type of deception is a security challenge. We know that these actors are going to continue to try to manipulate and deceive people on a range of platforms in any media that they can access,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, who oversees cybersecurity policy at Facebook.
In the same report, the social network said it had pulled down 206 Facebook accounts, 178 pages, three groups and 14 Instagram accounts targeting Palestine. Some of the accounts posted about politics in Palestine. Several pages also impersonated real think tanks and media organizations in Israel and the UK, Facebook said. The social network linked these accounts to people in Palestine and the United Arab Emirates along with a marketing firm in Belgium.