Underlining the scope of the challenge Facebook is dealing with in relation to removing bad actors from its platforms, The Social Network has this week detailed its latest actions to remove 783 Pages, groups and accounts linked to organizations in Iran, and a further 1,700 Pages, profiles and groups linked to the 'Saracen Group' in Indonesia. All were found to be engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior", and seeking to manipulate user opinions and actions.
For the first group of accounts, Facebook says that:
"This activity was directed from Iran, in some cases repurposing Iranian state media content, and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting people across the world, although more heavily in the Middle East and South Asia. These were interconnected and localized operations, which used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing."
Meanwhile the Indonesian-based removals - operated by 'The Saracen Group' - are being shut down due to misleading activity.
"We’re taking down these Pages, groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they were posting. In this case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action."
Cumulatively, more than 2.2 million Facebook users followed this group of profiles, while the Iranian group also cumulatively spent just under $30,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads. The Iranian-based organization also published eight events.
The latest removals underline that it's not just US voters being targeted by such behavior, but voters in various regions - and with all the press coverage around the misuse of Facebook for ill-gain by politically affiliated groups, you can bet other unscrupulous actors are also looking into how they might be able to do the same.
Earlier this month, Facebook removed an additional 500 Facebook Pages and Instagram accounts linked to Russian-originated groups for similar reasons, which shows that its increased detection and enforcement actions are having an effect. But the challenge before it remains significant.
With more than 2.3 billion users, Facebook has the largest potential reach of any platform in the world, and that, logically, makes it a target for those seeking to spread propaganda to the widest possible audience, in order to sway public opinion and shift voter action.
For its part, Facebook says that it now has more than 30,000 people working on safety and security across the company - three times as many as it had in 2017. Facebook is working to stop misuse, it is taking action. But as noted, the challenge only looks to get more significant from here on in.