| 24 May 2024, Friday |

Facebook says it removed troll farm run by Nicaraguan government

Facebook announced on Monday that it had eliminated a troll farm with over 1,000 Facebook and Instagram accounts that was allegedly controlled by the Nicaraguan government and the Sandinista National Liberation Front, the country’s ruling party.

The troll farm, which is an organized effort to manipulate public dialogue using bogus identities, was created to elevate pro-government and anti-opposition content, according to the social media business. It claimed that it had been operating on its platforms since 2018 and that it was principally run by TELCOR, Nicaragua’s telecoms authority, from the postal service headquarters in Managua.

Smaller clusters of false accounts were apparently run by the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, which has been an Ortega ally, and the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute, according to Facebook.

A Reuters request for comment on the claim was not immediately returned by the office of Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo, who also serves as a spokesperson for President Daniel Ortega and his government.

In their report, Facebook’s investigators stated, “This was one of the largest cross-government troll operations we’ve disrupted to date, with many state entities participating in this activity at the same time.”

Facebook said it had this year taken down other government-linked networks from Ethiopia, UgandaSudan, Thailand and Azerbaijan for breaking its rules against so-called coordinated inauthentic behavior, calling this “an especially troubling trend.”

The company, which last week announced it would start trading as Meta Platforms Inc on Dec. 1, has been under scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators over potential harms linked to its platform, particularly after former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents.

Nicaragua will hold its presidential election on Sunday, which Washington has denounced as a sham organized by an increasingly authoritarian Ortega.

Facebook said the operation ran a network of blogs, websites and social media assets across TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Blogspot and Telegram. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It said the activity began in April 2018, as student-led protests against the government broke out. It said the network created fake accounts to discredit the protesters, including through posing as students and through attempting coordinated reporting of critics’ accounts. From late 2019, Facebook said it increasingly focused on posting and amplifying pro-government content.

Facebook said it removed 937 Facebook accounts, 140 pages, 24 groups and 363 Instagram accounts as part of the Nicaraguan network.

  • Reuters