‘Change reality’: Facebook busts Israel-based campaign to disrupt elections

Jerusalem: Facebook said on Thursday it banned an Israeli company that ran an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and has cancelled dozens of accounts engaged in spreading disinformation.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy, told reporters that the tech giant had purged 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts.

Although Facebook said the individuals behind the network attempted to conceal their identities, it discovered that many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm that publicly boasts of its social media skills and ability to “change reality”.

“It’s a real communications firm making money through the dissemination of fake news,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank collaborating with Facebook to expose and explain disinformation campaigns.

He called Archimedes’ commercialisation of tactics more commonly tied to governments, like Russia, an emerging – and worrying – trend in the global spread of social media disinformation. “These efforts go well beyond what is acceptable in free and democratic societies,” Brookie said.

Gleicher described the pages as conducting “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” with accounts posting on behalf of certain political candidates, smearing their opponents and presenting as legitimate local news organisations peddling supposedly leaked information.

Read the article by Isabel Debre and Raphael Satter in The Sydney Morning Herald.