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Facebook outed a Ukrainian PR agency which spent $1.6 million on ads for fake accounts and pages

Facebook outed a Ukrainian PR agency which spent $1.6 million on ads for fake accounts and pages

Facebook announced Monday that it has taken down hundreds of fake accounts, groups, and pages originating from Ukraine and Iraq.

In a Facebook Newsroom post, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said that his team removed 244 accounts, 269 pages, 80 groups, and seven Instagram accounts that were linked to these two operations.

"We're constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people. We're taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action. We have shared information about our analysis with our industry partners," Gleicher said.

In the case of the Ukrainian operation, Facebook said that people were using the fake accounts to drive users to off-platform sites, which were "posing" as news outlets.

The admins and account owners posted about celebrities, sports, local and international news, and political and economic issues. Some of these posts were critical of public figures, it said.

During its investigation, Facebook traced this activity back to a Ukranian PR firm called Pragmatico. It also found that the people who were responsible for these groups had spent $1.6 million on Facebook and Instagram ads.

The fake Iraqi accounts and groups were used to post about domestic political and societal issues and public figures such as Saddam Hussein. Less than $1,600 was spent on ads on the platform by these groups.

Facebook has been clamping down on what it dubs as "coordinated inauthentic behavior" in recent months.

According to Gleicher, this refers to groups or pages of people that work together to mislead people about who they are or what they are doing. These networks are taken down because of their deceptive behavior rather than because of the content they are sharing, which may not be false or go against Facebook's standards.