Twitter and Facebook dismantle global array of disinformation networks

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Facebook and Twitter have said they had taken down over a dozen disinformation networks used by political and state-backed groups in numerous nations to deceive users on their platforms.

In separate statements, the two conversation-driven platform businesses said they had identified and suspended over 3,500 accounts between them, which used fake identities and other deceptive behaviours to spread false or misleading information.

The networks targeted customers in a wide selection of countries, including the United States where officials have warned that foreign authorities are trying to influence the results of November’s presidential election.

After coming under heavy fire for failing to stop alleged Russian attempts to sway the 2016 US election, Facebook and Twitter have declared a series of high-profile takedowns in the weeks leading up to the year’s presidential vote.

In a number of cases, the social networking companies have worked with US law enforcement to track and dismantle political influence campaigns targeting US voters which have been attributed to foreign states, most notably Iran and Russia.

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Tehran and Moscow have repeatedly denied the allegations.

The takedowns announced on Thursday covered networks using a global reach far beyond the US election. The operations targeted Internet users in at least 16 other nations which range from Azerbaijan to Nigeria and Japan, Facebook and Twitter explained.

Twitter said the five networks it had suspended were individually linked to groups with ties to the authorities of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Thailand and Russia.

“Our goal with these disclosures is to continue to build public understanding around the ways in which state actors try to abuse and undermine open democratic conversation,” the company said in a statement.

Facebook stated it had found 10 networks, a few of which it had formerly identified publicly. The networks were mostly tied to political circles who targeted national audiences, ” it said, including the Myanmar military and the youth wing of Azerbaijan’s ruling party.

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“Deceptive campaigns like these raise particularly complex issues by blurring the line of a healthy public debate and manipulation,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy.

Facebook also banned a US marketing company named Rally Forge, which it said had worked with conservative activism organization Turning Point USA and a self-proclaimed environmental body named Inclusive Conservation Group.

Accounts commanded by Rally Forge tried to influence public conversations around news events by flood the remarks section of news articles from prominent outlets, Facebook said.

The left-wing Washington Post has reported that Turning Point USA was responsible for a “spam-like” political messaging campaign, which pumped out 4,500 tweets comprising identical content. At the moment, Twitter frozen 20 accounts and Facebook said it would look into the activity.

Turning Point said the allegations related to a separate entity.

Messages left with Rally Forge and its own Phoenix area-based president, Jake Hoffman, weren’t immediately returned. Journalists at our partner news agency Reuters were not able to reach representatives for Inclusive Conservation Group.

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The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Jonathan Landay. Editing by Steve Orlofsky.

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