Facebook Removes 3 More Russian Networks for Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior

They were targeting several countries in Africa

Facebook removed three more networks of accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior, all of which originated in Russia.

Head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a Newsroom post that the three networks were connected to entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who was previously indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The first of the three groups consisted of 35 accounts, 53 pages, seven groups and five Instagram accounts, with its activity focused on Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.

They used a combination of fake accounts and authentic accounts of local nationals in Madagascar and Mozambique to manage pages and groups and post content, typically regarding global and local political news on topics including Russian policies in Africa, elections in Madagascar and Mozambique, election monitoring by a local non-governmental organization and criticism of French and U.S. policies.

According to Gleicher, some 475,000 accounts followed one or more of the removed pages, about 450 people followed at least one of the groups and roughly 650 users followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.

This network spent about $77,000 on Facebook ads, paid for in U.S. dollars, with the first ad running in April 2018 and the most recent ad running this month.

He also shared sample content from some of the removed pages:

Page Name: “Sudan in the Eyes of Others.” Caption Translation: Yam Brands, the company that owns the KFC franchise, stated that it intends on opening three branches of its franchise in Sudan. The spokesman of the company based in the American state of Kentucky, Takalaty Similiny, issued a statement saying that the branches are currently under construction and will open in mid-November.Facebook


Translation: The Police of the Republic of Mozambique announced today that nine members of RENAMO were detained for their participation in the attempt to remove urns from one of the voting posts in the district of Machanga, Sofala, and for having vandalized the infrastructure. According to the spokesperson for PRM, that spoke in a press-conference in Maputo, the nine people are accused of having led around 300 RENAMO supporters that tried to remove the urns during counting at the Inharingue Primary School.Facebook

Translation: President of Central African Republic asked Vladimir Putin to organize the delivery of heavy weapons. Wednesday, in Sochi, President Faustin-Archange Touadera asked his counterpart Vladimir Putin to increase the military assistance to the Republic, asking specifically for the supply of heavier weapons. “Russia is giving a considerable help to our country. They already carried out two weapons deliveries, trained our national troops, trained police officers, but for more effectiveness, we need heavy weapons. We hope that Russia will be able to allocate us combat vehicles, artillery cannons and other killing weapons in order for us to bring our people to safety,” said Touadera. However, there is still an issue which is blocking us to implement this. The embargo on the Central African Republic was not fully lifted in order for Russia to implement the plans of Touadera. Until now, it is only possible to supply weapons with a caliber less than 14,5 mm. The embargo does not stop armed groups to get illegally heavy weapons for themselves, which is not helping the efforts of the government to establish peace. We ask the Security Council of United Nations to draw attention on what their (sometimes reckless) sanctions are bringing.Facebook

The second network was made up of 17 accounts, 18 pages, three groups and six Instagram accounts, focused primarily on Sudan and using authentic accounts of Sudanese nationals, as well as fake and compromised accounts, to comments, post and manage pages posing as news organizations, as well as to direct traffic to off-platform sites.

Stories from Sudanese state news agency SUNA were often shared, as well as content from Russian state-controlled media Sputnik and RT, posted primarily in Arabic but sometimes in English. Topics included local news and events in Sudan and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, such a Sudanese-Russian relations, U.S.-Russian relations, Russian foreign policy and Muslims in Russia.

About 457,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages, while some 1,300 joined at least one of the groups and around 2,900 followed at least one of the Instagram accounts.

About $160 was spent on Facebook ads, paid for in Russian rubles, with the first running in April 2018 and the most recent one this past September.

Gleicher shared sample content from some of the removed pages:

Translation (first two paragraphs): “American and British intelligence put together false information about Putin’s inner circle … a diplomatic military source said that American and British intelligence agencies are preparing to leak false information about people close to the president, Vladimir Putin, and the leadership of the Russian defense ministry.“Facebook

Page title: “Nile Echo.” Post translation (first paragraph only): French movements to abort Russian and Sudanese mediation in the Central African Republic …Facebook

Translation: #Article (I am completely sure that the person in the cell is not [ousted Sudanese leader Omar] al-Bashir, but I don’t have physical evidence proving this) Aml al-Kordofani wrote: The person resembling al-Bashir who is sitting behind the bars … who is he? The double game continues between the military and the sons of Gosh (referring to former Sudanese intelligence chief Salah Abdullah Mohamed Saleh) according to the American plan. The American plan employs psychological operations, as we mentioned earlier, and are undertaken by a huge office within the U.S. Department of Defense.Facebook


And the final group of 14 accounts, 12 pages, one group and one Instagram account focused on Libya, using a combination of authentic accounts of Egyptian nationals and fake and compromised accounts to manage pages and drive people to an off-platform domain.

Stories from Sputnik and RT were frequently shared, and posts in Arabic covered local news and geopolitical issues including Libyan politics, crimes, natural disasters, public health, Turkey’s alleged sponsoring of terrorism in Libya, illegal migration, militia violence, the detention of Russian citizens in Libya for alleged interference in elections and a meeting between Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Gleicher added that some of the pages posted content on multiple sides of political debate in Libya, including criticism of the Government of National Accord, U.S. foreign policy, and Haftar, as well as support of Muammar Gaddafi and his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Russian foreign policy and Khalifa Haftar.

Approximately 212,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages, while just one account joined the group and around 29,300 people followed the Instagram account.

About $10,000 was spent on ads, paid for primarily in U.S. dollars, euros and Egyptian pounds. The first ad ran in May 2014, while the most recent one ran earlier this month.

Gleicher shared sample content from some of the removed pages:

Page name: “Voice of Libya.” Post translation: The Government of National Accord [GNA] practices hypocrisy … the detention of two Russian citizens under the pretense that they are manipulating elections in Libya. But in reality, no elections are taking place in Libya now. So, the pretense under which the Russians were arrested is fictitious and contrived.Facebook

Page title: “Libya Gaddafi.” Post translation: “Why was late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi killed? Everyone was happy in Libya. There are people in America who sleep under bridges. There was never any discrimination in Libya, and there were not problems. The work was good and the money, too.”Facebook

Page name: “Voice of Libya.” Post translation: First meeting between Haftar and Putin in Moscow. Several sources reported on the visit of the army’s commander-in-chief, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, to Moscow, where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, to discuss developments in the military and political situation in Libya. This is Haftar’s first meeting with the Russian president. He has previously visited Russia and met with senior officials in the foreign and defense ministries, and they are expected to meet again.Facebook

Page title: “Falcons of the Conqueror.” Post translation: Field Marshal Haftar: Libyans decide who to elect as the next president, and it is Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi’s right to be a candidate.Facebook