Social media giant Facebook on Wednesday announced it had suspended three networks of Russian accounts that meddled in the domestic politics of eight African countries, reported Reuters.
The accounts were linked to a Russian businessman, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been indicted in the United States in connection with a campaign targeting the 2016 US elections.
The fake and compromised Facebook pages targeted the people of eight countries across the African continent- Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan, and Libya. Between them, the accounts amassed over 1 million followers.
Facebook described three separate operations targeting both its core social network and Instagram. In one of the operations, 35 accounts and 53 pages were found focusing on the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon. The fake accounts and pages got more than 475,000 followers and spent a total of $77,000 for posting ads on global and local political news including Russian policies in Africa and criticism of French and US policies.
Another such operation targeted Sudan that included 20 different accounts and 18 pages, some posing as news organizations. The third network was focused on Libya and involved 15 accounts and 12 pages posting about local news and geopolitical issues.
In an interview with Reuters, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said each of these operations created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.
Gleicher added that the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens in some of the African countries to better disguise their origins and target internet users.
“There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia,” Gleicher said. “It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation.”
He said the company has shared all the information about the findings with law enforcement, policymakers, and industry partners.