Facebook has blocked three networks of Russian accounts that have tried to influence elections in eight African countries. As the news agency Reuters reported, almost 200 fake accounts have been blocked with a reach of one million users. Specifically, it is about campaigns in Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sudan, and Libya. The fake accounts are related to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and confidant of Putin. Prigozhin is also accused of having influenced the recent US elections. Some accounts have been active since 2014.
In part, the network would have cooperated with citizens of the respective states to mask its geographical origins. “There is, if you will, a kind of pooling of forces between local actors and actors from Russia,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cyber Security Policy on Facebook, Reuters. This procedure was new for Facebook and therefore particularly difficult to discover. The model of collaborating with local players may have evolved as an editor on Facebook’s policy of publishing the location of political account administrators. The accounts were both posts on local news and geopolitical issues published as well as the content of Russian state media has been disseminated. The network pursued different strategies in different states. Some of them had supported a special party or a candidate, others had specifically aimed to mobilize support for Russian politics.
Since the elections in the US in 2016, Facebook, Twitter and Google have repeatedly been criticized for doing too little against political influence over the platforms. Accordingly, they have strengthened their countermeasures.