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Facebook, Twitter take down Russia-linked accounts posting from African countries

The influence campaign posted about black history and civil rights in the US, Facebook said.

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Facebook and Twitter say they identified a campaign of inauthentic behavior coming from Russia-linked accounts in Ghana and Nigeria.

Angela Lang/CNET

Russia-backed actors are still abusing Facebook and Twitter, now from accounts run by people in Ghana and Nigeria, the social media giants said Thursday. The activity was part of an influence campaign that focused on posting about black history, civil rights and LGBTQ issues in the US, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, said in a blog post.

Gleicher said Facebook removed 49 accounts and 69 pages from its site, and 85 accounts from Instagram, which it owns. The Facebook pages had amassed about 13,500 followers, and the Instagram accounts had about 265,000 followers. The majority of followers were in the US. Twitter said in a tweet that it also removed 71 accounts operating from Ghana and Nigeria.

"We recently suspended a small network of accounts largely Tweeting in English and that presented themselves as based in the United States," Twitter said. Also working on the investigation was social media research firm Graphika, which published its own report Thursday, as well as academics from Clemson University and journalists from CNN.

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A screenshot from a post on a Facebook page that the social media company removed from the site. Facebook said Thursday that the page was part of a campaign of inauthentic behavior linked to actors in Ghana, Nigeria and Russia.

Facebook

Facebook said it found that the campaign was linked to an NGO in Ghana called EBLA. The CNN investigation, also published Thursday, said the Ghanaian group was based in Accra and had 16 people employed to post content to the accounts and pages. Facebook said the effort was tied to individuals associated in the past with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization that the US intelligence community says was behind much of the election interference activity on social media during the US presidential election in 2016.

The accounts didn't appear to be posting about elections, Facebook said. In previous campaigns, fake accounts built up an audience by posting one kind of content, and then changed tack to other political topics, researchers in the US have found. Since US intelligence agencies announced in 2017 that Russia had mounted an effort to influence the election, Facebook and other social media companies, including Google (which owns YouTube), Twitter and Reddit, have increased their efforts to identify campaigns run by networks of fake accounts.

"We're constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity," Gleicher said in his blog post, "because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people."