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Facebook cracks down on fake news ahead of Brazil elections

Sources say removed pages belonged to a right-wing activist group.
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Facebook took down 196 pages and 87 accounts used by a right-wing Brazilian activist group to spread fake news, Reuters reports. According to the publication's sources, the group, Movimento Brazil Livre, was running fake pages to spread its political message throughout Brazil ahead of the country's general election in October. In a statement given to Reuters, Facebook, which didn't name the pages or who was behind them, said the deactivations were instituted because the pages were part of "a coordinated network that hid behind fake Facebook accounts and misled people about the nature and origin of its content, all for the purpose of sowing division and spreading misinformation."

In all, the pages reportedly had around half of a million followers and Reuters' sources said some of the pages were falsely portrayed as independent news outlets that misrepresented who was really behind them. Movimento Brazil Livre, or the Free Brazil Movement, has garnered a fair amount of support in the country in recent years, gaining prominence in 2016 when it led protests against former President Dilma Rousseff. The movement has utilized the internet to help spread its politics and Pedro Ferreira, one of its co-founders, told the BBC in April that the web has allowed people to find their voices.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

After it came to light that Russian groups had used Facebook to sow political discord in the US ahead of the last presidential election, the social media giant has put more of an effort to combat misinformation campaigns around major elections. The company took down tens of thousands of fake accounts in the month before Germany's elections last September and suspended many thousands of accounts promoting propaganda ahead of France's elections in April of last year. It also purged a large number of accounts spreading misinformation leading up to the UK's elections last year and in June, the company announced that it had deactivated more than 10,000 fake pages, groups and accounts in Latin America ahead of major elections. During a press call yesterday, Facebook's head of Latin American politics and government division also said that the company worked to remove accounts impersonating politicians as well as fake likes from candidates' pages ahead of Mexico's general election earlier this month.

Samidh Chakrabarti, who oversees Facebook's civic engagement and elections work, said yesterday that in Brazil, the company is working alongside a superior electoral court, a regional court and electoral law enforcement authorities in its efforts, particularly when it comes to Facebook ads.

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