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Facebook says Russian disinformation campaigns targeted Africa

Facebook HQ. (eston/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Facebook says it has taken down three networks of nearly 200 accounts that attempted to interfere in the domestic affairs of eight African countries, and were linked to a Kremlin-connected businessman accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The campaigns used fake and compromised accounts to target Facebook and Instagram users in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Sudan, the U.S. social-media giant said on October 30.

Facebook said all the networks were connected to “entities associated” with Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been indicted in the United States in connection with an influence campaign targeting the 2016 election.

Prigozhin, sometimes referred to as “Putin’s Chef,” has previously denied wrongdoing.

Facebook cybersecurity chief Nathaniel Gleicher said that in some of the targeted African countries, the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens to “mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.”

The disinformation campaigns in Africa posted about local news and geopolitical matters, and shared content from Russian state-controlled media, according to Facebook. They also spent an estimated $90,000 on advertising.

Some of the accounts were active as far back as 2014, the company said.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google have vowed to step up efforts to prevent political manipulation of their platforms.

U.S. officials have warned that Russia, Iran, and other countries could attempt to influence the result of the November 2020 presidential vote.

Moscow and Tehran have repeatedly denied the allegations.