Facebook bans Israel's Archimedes Group over fake political activity, election disruption

The corporation has been accused of using fake accounts to influence political campaigns.

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Facebook has banned Israel's Archimedes Group for allegedly being connected to hundreds of pages, accounts, and groups used to manipulate users and to influence political discussions.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy said on Thursday that Archimedes Group and all of its subsidiaries are now barred from the social networking platform.

Archimedes Group's slogan is "Winning campaigns worldwide," according to the firm's website.

"Archimedes has created and operates in its own unique field within the social media realm,' the company says. "When approaching a client's challenge, we address all possible facets relating to it. We then formulate a concise yet comprehensive solution that will use every tool and take every advantage available in order to change reality according to our client's wishes."

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However, according to Facebook, part of the strategy in winning campaigns is to conduct coordinated inauthentic behavior and create a plethora of fake accounts and groups -- perhaps, indeed, to "change reality" as the company claims.

In total, the social media giant has removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages, groups, and events linked to Archimedes Group.

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When broken down, Facebook has wiped out 65 Facebook accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events, and four Instagram accounts.

The individuals operating the scheme focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger, and Tunisia, representing themselves as local people and news organizations in order to spread content and initiate debate based on the firm's political agenda.

Archimedes Group spent a total of $812,000 on Facebook ads, running its first advertisement in 2012 and the last in April 2019.

"[Archimedes Group] has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior," Facebook says. "This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter."

In an example of the type of content which has been removed, the image below relates to Martin Fayulu, leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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The image is translated as:

"Faithful to only himself, Martin Fayulu criticizes and rejects the results of the presidential election, which has unfolded transparently and in an exemplary calmness. It is time for him to admit his defeat to president Tshisekedi who has been elected in a democratic way."

screenshot-2019-05-17-at-07-17-23.png

Earlier this month, Facebook wiped out two large political schemes on the social network which were connected to Russian entities. Pages, accounts, and groups were removed for impersonating local people in order to manipulate legitimate users and to promote politically-driven content relating to Ukraine's military situation, Russian, European, and Ukrainian politics, and the Syrian civil war.

ZDNet has reached out to Archimedes Group and will update if we hear back. 

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