Tech Overlook

Removing Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior From Moldova


By Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy

Earlier this week, we removed 168 Facebook accounts, 28 Pages and eight Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting people in Moldova. This activity originated in Moldova, and used a combination of fake accounts and some authentic accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing. Given the upcoming elections in Moldova, we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today.

The Page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues such as required Russian or English language education and reunification with Romania. They also shared manipulated photos, divisive narratives and satire and impersonated a local fact checking organization’s Page that called out other Pages for spreading fake news. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review found that some of this activity was linked to employees of the Moldovan government.

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 168 Facebook accounts, 28 Pages and 8 accounts on Instagram.
  • Followers: About 54,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages and around 1,300 accounts followed at least one of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising: Less than $20,000 in spending for ads on Facebook and Instagram paid for in US dollars, euros and Romanian leu. We have not completed our review of the organic content coming from these accounts.

We identified these accounts through our internal investigation into Moldova-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our investigation benefited from a tip shared by a local civil society organization.

We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. As is always the case with these takedowns, we’re removing these Pages, groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they post. 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.

To ensure that we stay ahead in rooting out abuse we’re investing heavily in building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other technology companies.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages.

Caption: Moldovans from Afghanistan – the electoral hostages of notPresident Dodon 😦  #VIDEO

Caption: How can you believe in this worthless news which only tell lies?”

Caption: #ParliamentaryElections2019
Image text: I did not decide who to vote for

Caption: The high school principal was NOT beaten up by the PDM representatives! #StopFals

Caption: The ground underneath Moldova will shake with power
Headline: Attention: In Moldova is expected a very powerful earthquake!

Caption: STOP MANIPULATION!
Headline: Conference “Misinformation as a propaganda tool: trends and regional impact”

Caption: Vlad Plahontiuc personally handed the DPM (Democratic Party of Moldova) membership card to Vasile Melinte.
Headline: Vasile Melinte is the Moldovan hero who saved 70 people during the Greek fires, he just joined the DPM!

Caption: The socialist Dinari Cojocaru radically changed his rhetoric just one week later. Did he take money from the Bahamas company or not? What did you understand from this?

 



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