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Facebook pulls Russian accounts over political meddling in Africa

The accounts were linked back to a Putin ally.
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pawel.gaul via Getty Images

Facebook has once again caught Russians trying to meddle in the politics of other countries, this time in Africa. The social media giant has pulled a total of 66 Facebook accounts, 83 Pages, 11 Groups and 12 Instagram accounts for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that used a mix of real, fake and hijacked accounts to shape political news and discussions in eight countries, including Libya, Mozambique and Sudan. They frequently posted stories and comments boosting Russian policies in Africa (while blasting US policies), shared stories from Russian state-controlled outlets like Sputnik and RT, and took a keen interest in elections in Madagascar and Mozambique.

The accounts drew significant attention in some cases. Roughly 475,000 accounts followed one or more of the Pages targeting six countries.

All of the would-be manipulators were linked to outfits associated with Putin ally Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the accused financier for the Internet Research Agency who faced US indictments over election meddling. In other words, this appears to represent an extension of Russia's internet strategy -- it's hoping to skew other countries' politics in its favor by convincing social network users to back pro-Russia leaders and policies.

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