Facebook has removed hundreds of fake Facebook and Instagram pages, groups, and accounts that it says were run by an Israeli firm that was targeting countries in Africa.
The Israeli company Archimedes Group spent more than $800,000 running Facebook ads and their accounts had almost 3 million followers, Facebook said in a blog post announcing the removals Thursday.
Archimedes Group used fake accounts and “represented themselves as locals, including local news organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians,” Facebook said.
The company primarily targeted Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia but also had some activity targeting Latin America and Southeast Asia, according to Facebook.
A website that appears to belong to the Archimedes Group boasts that its teams “took significant roles in many political and public campaigns, among them Presidential elections and other social media projects all over the world.”
“Archimedes has created and operates in it’s own unique field within the social media realm,” it continues.
CNN Business has reached out to the company multiple times for comment but has not received a reply.
In the blog post, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote, “The Page administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents.”
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab said in a report that the company touted its product “Archimedes Tarva, which, according to an online description, includes ‘mass social media campaign management and automation tools, large scale platform creation, and unlimited online accounts operation’.”
The lab was alerted to the pages by Facebook before the platform took action.
“The tactics employed by Archimedes Group, a private company, closely resemble the types of information warfare tactics often used by governments, and the Kremlin in particular,” the lab said in a report. “Unlike government-run information campaigns, however, the DFRLab could not identify any ideological theme across the pages removed, indicating that the activities were profit-driven.”