According to a recent report, Facebook has dismantled a covert influence campaign on its network operated by the government of Saudi Arabia.
Reuters reports that Silicon Valley tech giant Facebook has allegedly dismantled a Saudi government-run influence campaign on its platform. According to the report, a number of individuals linked to the government have been running a network of fake accounts that promoted and shared state propaganda and attacked regional rivals.
Facebook has stated that it suspended more than 350 accounts and pages that had a combined follower count of 1.4 million. Facebook stated that this latest crackdown on fake accounts is in an effort to combat “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on the platform. Saudi Arabia has denied any knowledge of the influence campaign with the Center for International Communication, the government’s media office, saying in a statement to Reuters: “The government of Saudi Arabia has no knowledge of the mentioned accounts and does not know on what basis they were linked to it.”
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, commented on the removal of the influence campaign stating: “For this operation, our investigators were able to confirm that the individuals behind this are associated with the government of Saudi Arabia… Anytime we have a link between an information operation and a government, that’s significant and people should be aware.”
Gleicher stated that the Saudi campaign utilized both Facebook and Instagram, targeting users in the Middle East and North Africa including Qatar, the UA, Egypt, and Palestine. The campaign used fake accounts posing as citizens of those countries and pages designed to look like local news outlets which spent more than $100,000 on Facebook ads.
Gleicher stated: “They would typically post in Arabic about regional news and political issues. They would talk about things like Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — his internal and economic social reform plan, the successes of the Saudi armed forces, particularly during the conflict in Yemen.” Andy Carvin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab, worked with Facebook to analyze the campaign and stated that 90% of the content was in Arabic with some accounts “essentially operating as fan pages for the Saudi government and military.”