Published: November 05, 2019
Russia Testing New Disinformation Tactics In Africa With Facebook Campaign
Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Facebook says that it has disrupted three Russia-backed networks employing disinformation tactics across several African countries. Photo by Kalu Johnson from Pexels
A Russian Facebook campaign focused on spreading fake news and misleading users has been active in several African countries as Russia tests its disinformation capabilities.
Russian online networks were linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin who was indicted by the U.S. for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to NBCNews.
The accounts employing disinformation tactics in Africa have been publishing a larger volume of posts than the accounts that meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which engages in online influence operations on behalf of Russian business and political interests, posted on Facebook 2,442 times a month on average ahead of the U.S. elections in 2016, according to the New York Times.
By comparison, one of the networks in Africa posted 8,900 times in October alone.
Facebook said that it has disrupted three Russia-backed networks spreading disinformation in Africa. The influence campaigns tried to manipulate public opinion in countries like Sudan and Libya, and are believed to be tied to a Russian oligarch who was indicted by the U.S. — A. (@Vickys_Secrets) October 31, 2019
Disinformation tactics in Africa
Facebook has said that it removed three Russian-backed influence networks targeting African countries through Arabic-language posts.
The African countries targeted in the campaign included Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, France24 reports.
The Stanford Internet Observatory, which worked with Facebook on the investigation into these Russian networks, discovered that Russians have been working with locals in the targeted countries to set up Facebook accounts that would appear authentic from a local perspective.
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Facebook pages were created by the Russians to pose as local news sites. One called “Sudan Daily” often reposted articles from Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news organization, The New York Times reported.
Posts from “Sudan Daily” would mostly promote Russian policies affecting Africa with some posts designed to criticize French and U.S. policies involving Africa.
Facebook has been criticized for its policy on political advertising.
Facebook quietly changed its policies last week and eliminated that language
Facebook tells me its policy is that Trump (and other political figures) CAN LIE IN PAID ADShttps://t.co/4aTevXJIwr — Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 3, 2019
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he will allow politicians to post any claims they want in an ad — even if they are false — in the name of free speech.
“I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians and the news,” said Zuckerberg.
“Some people accuse us of allowing speech because they think all we care about is making money, and that’s wrong,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call.
“I can assure you that from a business perspective, the controversy this creates far outweighs the very small percentage of our business that these political ads make up.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that his platform has banned political ads globally, according to CNN.
The reactions to Jack Dorsey’s announcement about Twitter banning political ads are rolling in, and both Russian state media and the Trump campaign are having meltdowns.
Make of that what you will. pic.twitter.com/TzcXGAlywG — Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) October 31, 2019 source