According to the social network, the Israeli company was running an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and they had removed dozens of accounts that were engaged in spreading disinformation.
265 accounts, pages, groups and events, designed to influence people’s political views in six African countries and parts of south east Asia and south America, were canceled.
Haaretz reports: Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that the tech giant had purged 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts. Many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm that boasts of its social media skills and ability to “change reality.”
Gleicher said Facebook could not speculate about Archimedes’ motives, which “may be commercial or political.”
But he said Facebook discovered “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” with accounts posing as certain political candidates, smearing opponents and presenting as local news organizations peddling supposedly leaked information.
The activity appeared focused on Sub-Saharan African countries but was also scattered in parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America. The pages have racked up 2.8 million followers and hundreds of thousands of views.
Gleicher said Archimedes had spent some $800,000 on fake ads and that its deceptive activity dated back to 2012. He said Facebook has banned Archimedes.
Facebook has come under pressure to more aggressively and transparently tackle misinformation aimed at sowing division and confusion around elections, since the revelation that Russia used Facebook to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On its website, Archimedes presents itself as a consulting firm involved in campaigns for presidential elections.
Little information is available beyond its slogan, which is “winning campaigns worldwide,” and a vague blurb about the group’s “mass social media management” software, which it said enabled the operation of an “unlimited” number of online accounts.
The site, featuring a montage of stock photos from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, boasts of its “own unique field within the social media realm” and its efforts to “take every advantage available in order to change reality according to our client’s wishes.”
A message seeking comment from the company was not immediately returned.
Archimedes’ chief executive is Elinadav Heymann, according to Swiss negotiations consultancy Negotiations.CH, where he is listed as one of the group’s consultants.
A biography posted to the company’s website describes him as the former director of the Brussels-based European Friends of Israel lobbying group, a former political adviser in Israel’s parliament and an ex-intelligence agent for the Israeli Air Force.
According to Nathaniel Gleicher’s LinkedIn profile, he is now the first head of cybersecurity policy at social media giant Facebook.
Gleicher joined the company this month and was a former director for cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council.
Facebook confirmed the hiring which was first reported by Cyberscoop.
Facebook has been under major scrutiny over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and said in November it would be expanding its efforts in cybersecurity.
The company also announced last November that it would be creating a tool that allows users to see if they follow pages and accounts linked to Russian-backed groups.
Disclaimer: We have no position in Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) and have not been compensated for this article.
Former Obama administration cybersecurity official Jonathan Reiber has joined data center and cloud security company Illumio.
Reiber will take the role of head of cybersecurity strategy. The role was previously occupied by another former Obama administration official, Nathaniel Gleicher, who recently moved on to Facebook to become head of cybersecurity policy.
Previously, Reiber held several positions within the Obama administration’s Defense Department, including his last position as chief strategy officer for cyber policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was the principal author of the 2015 Department of Defense Cyber Strategy.
Last year, Illumio took in a $125 million Series D round investment led by J.P. Morgan Chase. Total investment in the Twitters European Jewish Silicon Valley Company totals $267 million since 2014.
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