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Facebook is purging accounts again − here’s why

After some of the biggest pages on Facebook saw their Likes count rapidly drop, the social network has confirmed that it has been busy sweeping up fake profiles and dodgy networks.

Last week, we reported that some of Facebook’s biggest hitters had lost swathes of Likes overnight. At the time, the company played coy and issued a statement saying it worked “consistently to detect and take down” fake profiles. It has now shone some light on what’s been happening behind the scenes.

Related: What is Facebook Watch?

Five big networks have recently been removed from Facebook, says the company, all of which were engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour (CIB). This type of behaviour sees groups distributing material that’s intended to influence and manipulate public debate.

Rather ominously, Facebook says the removed networks were all engaged in behaviour that was “conducted on behalf of a government entity or by a foreign actor”.

The networks spanned across India, Iran, Egypt, Russia, Myanmar and Vietnam. In total, they were responsible for 426 Facebook accounts, 1245 Instagram profiles, 248 pages and 49 groups, which have now all been wiped from the face of the internet.

There’s a worrying pattern across the networks, as most of them can be traced to specific marketing agencies, which have obviously been offered big bucks to carry out nefarious activities.

Even more concerning is Facebook’s claim that activity originating in Russia, which targeted Ukraine and neighbouring countries, was linked to Russian military intelligence services.

The social media giant says it’s shared these details with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners – it also states that it will issue monthly public reports on CIB going forward.

These numbers don’t match up to the thousands of Likes dropped from popular pages such as Cristiano Ronaldo’s profile and the page for China Global TV News (CGTN). Facebook hasn’t given us the full lowdown on what happened there, but we’re guessing that these numbers might be reflective of other types of spam.

Related: How to delete a Facebook account

In it report, Facebook says: “We routinely take down high-volume inauthentic behaviors like spam which are much less sophisticated, and we do not announce these enforcement actions when we take them.”

So unless Facebook starts spilling the beans on every single spam removal, it looks like we’ll keep seeing huge numbers disappear without a detailed explanation.

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