July 24, 2024


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French and Russian trolls wrestle for influence in Africa, Fb claims

By Jack Stubbs

a sign on the side of a building: FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: 3D printed ballot boxes are seen in front of a displayed Facebook logo

© Reuters/Dado Ruvic
FILE Photo: FILE Image: 3D printed ballot containers are noticed in front of a displayed Fb brand

LONDON (Reuters) – Rival French and Russian disinformation strategies have sought to deceive and impact World wide web people in the Central African Republic forward of an election later on this month, Fb claimed on Tuesday.


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Facebook claimed it was the initially time it had found foreign impact functions right engage on its platforms, with faux accounts denouncing every other as “pretend information”.

The enterprise reported it had suspended a few networks totalling nearly 500 accounts and web pages for so-known as “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. A person network was linked to “people related with French navy,” it claimed, even though the other two had connections to “men and women associated with earlier activity by the Russian Net Study Company” as effectively as Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin.

The French defence ministry and army command did not straight away react to requests for remark. Associates for Prigozhin, who U.S. prosecutors say directed the World-wide-web Exploration Agency to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, did not immediately answer to requests for remark. He denies the U.S. allegations.

“You are not able to combat hearth with fireplace. We have these two attempts from diverse sides of these concerns using the similar practices and methods, and they conclude up searching type of the very same,” stated Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity plan.

France and Russia are both equally keen to assert affect in Africa. Paris has ties with several French-speaking African countries, which it sees as crucial to avoiding the distribute of violent Islamisation, and Moscow is jockeying for place in a valuable market.

Fb mentioned the two campaigns mostly centered on the Central African Republic (Vehicle), which votes on Dec. 27, but also focused people in 13 other African international locations which include Algeria, Cameroon, Libya and Sudan.

Ben Nimmo, head of investigations at social media analytics firm Graphika, reported equally campaigns applied pretend accounts to pose as nearby men and women, often sharing doctored pics.

The French effort started off in mid-2019 and pushed pro-French messages just before targeting “Russian phony information” subsequent Facebook’s suspension of a Russian-joined disinformation marketing campaign in Africa in October previous yr.

The subsequent Russian procedure attempted to endorse Russian small business and diplomatic pursuits, as properly as the candidacy of President Faustin-Archange Touadera in the election, he claimed. Later, the Russian accounts tried out to out the French accounts that were making an attempt to out them.

But neither aspect developed a important audience in Automobile, he additional. “They looked like two troll teams arm wrestling, with no person else seriously paying out interest.”

(Added reporting by Tangi Salaun in PARIS Modifying by Giles Elgood)

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