Meta-owned Facebook removed 162 'inauthentic' accounts ‘linked to Hamas': report

Meta-owned Facebook removed 162 'inauthentic' accounts ‘linked to Hamas': report
A end-of-year report published on Meta's website says it has taken down a network of over 150 'fake' Hamas-linked accounts which it claims have attempted 'to manipulate public debate'.
3 min read
02 December, 2021
Last week, Facebook removed the pages of two major Palestinian media outlets covering news from Jerusalem [Getty]

Meta – Facebook’s parent company – has removed 141 Facebook accounts and 21 Instagram accounts allegedly linked to Hamas for violating its policy against “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” (CIB), the social media firm said in its annual ‘Adversarial Threat Report’ on Wednesday.

The company said the network of accounts originated in the besieged Gaza Strip and primarily targeted people in Palestine, and to a much lesser extent in Egypt and Israel. 

Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Meta, wrote: “We found this activity as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behaviour in the region and linked it to Hamas”. The report also said that Meta had removed similar networks from Poland, Belarus, and China.

The accounts – with a combined following of 407,000 users – primarily posted news stories, cartoons and memes in Arabic about current events in the region, including the postponed Palestinian election, criticism of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, Fatah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as supportive commentary about Hamas.

While a full list of the removed accounts is not available, the report included samples of censored content, including one from the page “We want elections” which was captioned: “An entire generation of young people has never exercised their right to vote”.

The accounts had spent approximately $21,000 in advertisements on Facebook and Instagram since their inception. 

Live Story

Coordinated inauthentic behaviour vs. Fake news

Meta defines CBI as: “coordinated efforts to manipulate public debate for a strategic goal where fake accounts are central to the operation. When such efforts are discovered, the company removes both inauthentic and authentic accounts, pages and groups directly involved in the activity.” 

It is distinct from ‘Fake news’ in that “the content shared may not be false or go against our community standards”, according to an explanatory video on Meta’s website.

With regards to its latest report, Meta has not yet provided detailed evidence linking the accounts to Hamas, nor has it specified their alleged ‘strategic’ goals.

Facebook and the Palestinians

Last week, Facebook removed the pages of two major Palestinian media outlets covering news from Jerusalem, with editors of the pages claiming “Facebook is “actively fighting Palestinian content”.

Facebook has come under fire for its alleged censorship of Palestinian content. In October, The Intercept published a leaked list of names that Facebook used to censor content, containing hundreds of names of Palestinian figures and organisations.

In September, Facebook's Oversight Board recommended that Facebook conduct an independent review after complaints that it disproportionately removed or demoted content from Palestinian and content in Arabic in comparison to its treatment of posts threatening anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian violence in Israel.