Facebook removes fake accounts stoking political tension in UK

It also pulled bogus Romanian accounts promoting a political party.

Facebook just cracked down on more fake accounts in the UK, and this time it was a relatively sophisticated scheme. The social network has pulled 137 bogus accounts (including for Instagram), groups and pages for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that tried to play two sides of the political debate in the UK. The perpetrators posed as both far-right and anti-far-right activists and spread divisive rhetoric about immigration, racism, religion, free speech rights and LGBT issues, among other contentious topics. If that sounds familiar, it should -- just like the US saw in 2016, the culprits were trying to stoke political tensions under the guise of rallying support.

The company didn't say where the operators came from, but they were relatively sophisticated. On top of the Russia-style attempt at social division, those responsible "frequently changed" group and page names to keep people guessing. They amassed a solid following, too, with about 175,000 accounts following one or more Pages and 4,500 following at least one of the Instagram accounts.

Simultaneously, Facebook removed 31 bogus accounts, groups and pages that posted about Romanian news and politics, frequently in support of the country's Social Democratic Party. There wasn't much mystery to that case, though. Although multiple people were involved, Facebook ultimately traced it back to one person associated with the Party. This was a surreptitious attempt at marketing the party, then.

The removals come as Facebook is facing heat in the UK. Politicians have accused Facebook of playing a key role in the rise of fake news, and have gone so far as to call Zuckerberg and crew "digital gangsters" who exploit data for profit. This latest move isn't likely to stem those accusations, but they at least show that Facebook is concerned about addressing suspicious activity.