More than 1000 fake accounts were deleted by Facebook in March for attempting to sway politics, with a few hundred of those being linked to a “troll farm” in Albania. The news comes as part of the company’s monthly report on coordinated inauthentic behaviour (CIB).
A total of 14 CIB networks from 11 different countries were removed in March, totalling 1167 individual Facebook accounts and 290 Instagram accounts.
Nine of the networks — from Israel, Benin, Comoros, Georgia and Mexico — were allegedly trying to sway domestic politics, while the other five — from Albania, Iran, Spain, Argentina and Egypt — focussed on international audiences.
Thankfully, Facebook notes that a majority of the networks hadn’t amassed large followings yet and were removed before they could become successful.
“The vast majority of the networks we removed in March had limited following or were in the early stages of building their audiences when we removed them,” Facebook said in the report.
“Ongoing enforcement against these threat actors across the internet has made these operations less effective in building their following. With each removal, we set back the actors behind these networks, forcing them to re-build their operations and slowing them down.”
Specifically, Facebook detailed an investigation into an Albanian troll farm that ran 128 Facebook and 146 Instagram accounts.
According to the company, the troll farm was closely linked to an exiled Iranian militant group and “targeted primarily Iran and global audiences with content related to Iran.”
The network included about 9000 followers on Facebook and 112,000 Instagram followers.
Facebook says the content “violated our policy against foreign interference which is coordinated inauthentic behaviour on behalf of a foreign entity.”
“The people behind this activity relied on a combination of authentic and fake accounts to post MEK-related content and comment on their own and other people’s posts, including those of international news organizations like Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and BBC. They also frequently posted links to websites and other social media channels affiliated with Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK),” Facebook said in the report.
Interestingly, Facebook asserted that “fake accounts formed the backbone of the operations, with Pages and Groups playing a relatively minor role” in the coordinated inauthentic behaviour.
According to Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathan Gleicher, the company has improved its ability to detect CIB but the accounts continue to find new strategies to avoid detection.