PR companies and new services in an era of information manipulation

Facebook announced it had deleted 211 accounts, 107 fanpage pages, 43 Facebook groups and 87 Instagram accounts in the latest scan. It is a...


Facebook announced it had deleted 211 accounts, 107 fanpage pages, 43 Facebook groups and 87 Instagram accounts in the latest scan. It is a campaign to prevent social network abuses to conduct coordinated unauthenticated behavior.


Virtual identities are created to manipulate information. Meaning unauthenticated behavior according to Facebook's definition. - Photo: BUZZFEED

Many media companies (PR) in different countries have just been named in the campaign to sweep information manipulation activities on Facebook. It reveals a new type of communication service: operating network pages, groups on social networks to share propaganda information according to customers.

On October 3, Facebook announced that it had deleted 211 accounts, 107 fanpage pages, 43 Facebook groups and 87 Instagram accounts in the latest sweep of the campaign. In order to prevent social network abuse to conduct coordinated inauthentic behavior.

This type of violation is defined by Facebook as when multiple pages or personal accounts work together to deceive others about who they really are and what they are actually doing.

Campaigns that require synergies between Facebook pages and groups often appear only when a region or country is having a hot issue such as rebellious movements, riots or elections.

Campaign operators often use fake accounts to manage Facebook pages and groups. Through these channels to post content (articles, images, videos, links to websites) related to that "hot" issue.

For example, among the accounts and pages, the recently deleted Facebook group has 69 personal accounts, 42 pages and 34 Instagram accounts used to post content about the riots in West Papua (Indonesia). These Facebook pages have nearly half a million "likes", while Instagram accounts have at least 120,000 followers.

According to the Facebook representative, the above Facebook pages are designed to look like the pages of media organizations or advocacy groups. However, the main purpose is to spread information related to the movement to breakaway in West Papua.

Organizers spent a total of $ 444,000 to run ads and promote Facebook posts during the campaign and were found to have "coordinated unauthenticated behavior" by Facebook.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's cybersecurity policy director, emphasized that Facebook deals with accounts or pages of this type because of "behavior" rather than "content" posted. This means that this type of violation is different from spreading false information, though it is also a type of information manipulation.

"The people behind these activities (creating pages, groups; sharing information; posting links) coordinate with each other and use fake accounts to hide their identities, activities and unrighteous behavior. list, and that's the basis for us (handling them), "Gleicher explained to Australia's ABC News.

This is not the first time Facebook has announced it has "taken action" with "unauthenticated behavior" on its platform. However, it is worth mentioning that the coordinated operation to manipulate information this time is related to PR companies. While in some previous cases Facebook has investigated many "organized misleading" campaigns that are backed by governments.

In its October 3 announcement, Facebook said that in the case of West Papua, "although the people behind this activity were trying to hide their identities," the social network had evidence that co-operating campaigns This battle is related to the media company InsightID (Indonesia).

Similarly, the UAE-based PR Charles Communications is said to be behind the information manipulation campaign, with employees using fake accounts to post propaganda information against Qatar and support the UAE.

To understand the purpose of this propaganda campaign, it is necessary to understand the context of the UAE (along with Egypt) has cut diplomatic relations with Qatar because it believes the country supports terrorism. Media company MintReach in Nigeria, and two Egyptian PR firms, Flexell and El Fagr, are also involved in accounts being deleted during Facebook's latest "cleanup".

These new developments indicate that the organization of information manipulation networks is a new service that PR firms are willing to "bid".

"More and more PR or strategic media companies provide digital propaganda services to all kinds of customers, including governments" - Samantha Bradshaw, researcher of Propaganda project Oxford University issue, told BuzzFeed News.

Earlier, in September, Facebook also announced it had deleted 168 accounts and 149 Facebook pages from Iraq and Ukraine because of "unauthenticated behavior," in which media company Pragmatico was thought to be involved.

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High Tech Brain: PR companies and new services in an era of information manipulation
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