Facebook eliminated 1,887 accounts, pages and groups connected to Russia, Iran, the United States and other nations in April that deceived users about their identity and function, and a few of these users shared posts about thepandemic to draw in more fans.
“We have seen threat actors leverage the coronavirus pandemic and discussion about the coronavirus pandemic in the same way that we’ve seen threat actors leverage other types of major events around the world,” stated Nathaniel Gleicher, who heads cybersecurity policy at Facebook, on Tuesday.
Facebook removed an overall of 8 networks of phony accounts, pages and groups that were produced prior to the break out of COVID-19, the breathing health problem brought on by the unique coronavirus. But the pandemic produced a chance for a few of the phony accounts to draw in more fans or to drive individuals to their pages or sites.
The largest network of accounts that Facebook removed in April was linked to media firm Espersona in Georgia that is now barred from the social network’s services. The social media giant took down 511 Facebook Pages, 101 Facebook accounts, 56 Instagram accounts and 122 Groups. (Facebook owns the photo app Instagram.) Users posed as news outlets and used fake names and stock images. They also shared content about the coronavirus that violated Facebook’s rules about harmful health information. Espersona didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In one post, Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, is shown standing in front of a yellow-and-black image that says “Kill Corona Volume 1.” The post is a reference to “Kill Bill,” a popular film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.
In the US, a smaller network of fake accounts tied to anti-immigration website VDARE posted about how white people in certain states have been hit hard by the coronavirus. VDARE didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Another network of accounts in the US was linked to, an online community that pushes right-wing conspiracies theories about a so-called “deep state” plotting to bring down President Donald Trump.
One post posted by a QAnon account includes a video that states it’s a documentary about the origins of the coronavirus that the media isn’t showing.
Ben Nimo, director of investigations at analysis company Graphika said in a tweet that influence operations and conspiracy groups “often have one main topic and they push that topic into whatever conversation they can.”
Gleicher said that each of the network of accounts had different goals unrelated to the coronavirus. Facebook also pulled down accounts tied to Mauritania and Myanmar in April.
“We saw them use content around coronavirus to further those goals in the same way that we’ve seen other actors do this so it was fairly opportunistic,” he said. “If you’re trying to build an audience, then you would want to use messages from the topic that everyone’s already talking about, which is coronavirus right now.”