Facebook blocks accounts from Russia, Iran over influence campaigns

This illustration file picture shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris on February 17, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019

Facebook blocks accounts from Russia, Iran over influence campaigns

  • Facebook said it removed 513 pages, groups and accounts tied to Iran

WASHINGTON: Facebook said Tuesday it shut down more than 2,600 fake accounts linked to Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo and aiming to influence political sentiment in various parts of the world.
It was the latest effort by the leading social network to shut down “inauthentic” accounts on Facebook and Instagram seeking to influence politics in the US and elsewhere.
Facebook said the accounts blocked in the four countries were not necessarily centrally coordinated but “used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy for the company.
“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people,” Gleicher said in a blog post.
“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”
Gleicher said Facebook — which has made similar moves in recent months — was making progress in rooting out fake accounts but noted that “it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well-funded. We constantly have to improve to stay ahead.”
In the latest action, Facebook said it removed 513 pages, groups and accounts tied to Iran and operating in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kashmir, Kazakhstan and various areas of the Middle East and North Africa.
Similar to other manipulation campaigns, the users posed as locals and “made-up media entities” and posted news stories about topics including sanctions against Iran, tensions between India and Pakistan, issues in the Middle East and the crisis in Venezuela.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review linked these accounts to Iran,” Gleicher said.
Another 1,907 accounts linked to Russia were also blocked. These sought to influence sentiment related to Ukrainian news and politics, the situation in Crimea and corruption.
Facebook said 212 Facebook accounts originating in Macedonia and Kosovo were shut down for misrepresenting themselves as users in Australia, the United States and Britain and sharing content about politics, astrology, celebrities and beauty tips.
Earlier this month, Facebook said it blocked online manipulation efforts in Britain and Romania from users seeking to spread hate speech and divisive comments.
In January, Facebook took down hundreds of accounts from Iran that were part of a vast manipulation campaign operating in more than 20 countries.

Houthi-held Sanaa ‘most dangerous’ for journalists with over 4200 violations

Updated 21 April 2019

Houthi-held Sanaa ‘most dangerous’ for journalists with over 4200 violations

  • The report said Houthis killed 22 journalists since the start of the war
  • Houthis committed a total of 4288 violations against the media in Yemen

DUBAI: The Houthi-held capital has been labelled “the most dangerous for journalists and media” by a Yemeni media watch group on Saturday, with 4248 reported violations against the press.

The National Organization of Yemeni Media (SADA) issued a report on the “reality of the Yemeni press during the year of 2018,” which stated that the Houthi militia were responsible for 97 percent of all violations made against the media in Yemen last year that came to 4,364.

Outside of Sanaa, the Houthi militia committed 76 violations against the media, bringing the number to a total of 4288 cases.

Since the Houthi coup in 2014, the militia has been reported to have killed at least 22 journalists through sniping, using them as human shields, and kidnapped 141.

Other violations included “abduction, enforced disappearance, murder, physical assault, targeting of houses, occupation of media institutions, and security prosecution.”