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Facebook pulls down fake accounts from the UK and Romania

Fake Facebook accounts in the UK were used to spread divisive comments and hate speech.

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James Martin/CNET

Facebook is cracking down on fake accounts from the UK and Romania.

The social network said Thursday it pulled down 137 Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages and groups from the UK that misrepresented their identities. Posing as far-right and anti-far-right activists, these accounts were used to spread hate speech and divisive comments on both sides of the political debate by posting about hot-button issues such as immigration, religion and politics. 

About 175,000 accounts followed one or more of the fake UK pages. Roughly 4,500 accounts followed one or more of the fake Instagram accounts. Some of the removed pages included "Anti far right extremists," "atheist research centre" and "halel speech." 

The Atlantic Council's Digital Research Forensic Lab, which studied the network of fake UK accounts, found that the accounts "seemed designed to amplify pro-Islam and anti-extremist messaging, including by engaging with anti-Islam commentators."

The UK accounts are among hundreds of fake accounts that Facebook has pulled down, including some from Iran, Russia, and the US following criticism after the 2016 US presidential election. The social network has been under fire for not acting quickly enough to prevent Russian trolls from spreading misinformation. The removals mark the first time that Facebook has said it pulled down a network of fake accounts tied to the UK.

"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," Facebook's Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a blog post

The social network also announced Thursday that it pulled down 31 fake Facebook pages, groups and accounts from Romania that mainly posted about local news and political issues.