Facebook removes dozens of pro-Saddam Hussein troll accounts

Facebook removes dozens of pro-Saddam Hussein troll accounts
Anti-Iraqi government accounts have been spreading pro-Saddam Hussein propaganda on Facebook, campaigners say.
2 min read
18 September, 2019
Pro-Saddam accounts were among those removed by Facebook [Getty]
Dozens of Facebook accounts that promoted pro-Saddam Hussein content have been removed from the platform, in the latest crackdown against "disinformation campaigns" by the social media giant.

DFRLab said that Facebook removed 206 profiles that had promoted Iraq content perceived as being pro-Saddam, anti-government, which included posts celebrating Iraqi fighters' battles against US troops and the former dictator Saddam Hussein. 

Also removed was content promoting Iranian-backed Shia militias operating in Iraq.

Among the profiles removed were 120 Facebook pages, 76 accounts, seven Instagram accounts, two Facebook events, and a Facebook group that was deemed to have engaged in "domestic-focused coordinated inauthentic behavior in Iraq".

Many of the personal Facebook accounts used Saddam Hussein's portrait for their profile pictures.

"The Page admins and account owners typically posted about domestic political and societal issues such as religion, various public figures including Saddam Hussein, the state or the military under the Saddam rule, tensions with Iran, the US military action in Iraq, Iranian-backed militia operating in Iraq, and Kurdish-Iraqi politics," Facebook wrote.

Pages also removed by Facebook included posts that praised former Baath Party officials, such as Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.

Among the pages were ones called "Brave Iraqi Army" and "Bird of Peace" that were said to be linked to pro-Saddam "disinformation campaigns", with the pages boasting 1.6 million followers.

Another page also promoted Abbas Combat Division, a Shia militia made up of volunteers dedicated to fighting the Islamic State group.

However, the Al-Abbas News Network also spread reports of the US arming IS with chemical weapons to use against the militia in the Iraqi city of Samarra.

In an unconnected move, Facebook also removed a Ukraine "troll factory".

"We also removed 168 accounts, 149 Facebook Pages and 79 Groups for engaging in domestic-focused coordinated inauthentic behavior in Ukraine," the Facebook statement read.

Facebook has been under pressure to remove accounts spreading "fake news", with the social media platform linked to disinformation campaigns during Donald Trump's election campaign, the Brexit vote, and some Middle East countries, including Egypt.