Parliamentary elections will be held in Moldova Feb. 24, and Facebook took steps to safeguard the vote in that country from manipulation via its platform.
Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a Newsroom post that 168 Facebook accounts, 28 Facebook pages and eight Instagram accounts were removed for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeted toward people in Moldova.
The activity originated in Moldova, using a combination of fake accounts and authentic accounts to post about local news and political issues, such as requiring education in Russian or English, and reunification with Romania.
Manipulated photos, divisive narratives and satire were also part of the mix, as was impersonation of the page of a local fact-checking organization to call out other pages for spreading fake news.
Gleicher said some of the activity was traced to employees of the Moldovan government.
Some 54,000 Facebook accounts followed at least one of the removed pages, and roughly 1,300 Instagram accounts followed at least one of the removed accounts on that platform.
Gleicher said less than $20,000 was spent for ads on Facebook and Instagram, with payment in dollars, euros and Romanian leu.
He added, “We identified these accounts through our internal investigation into Moldova-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our investigation benefited from a tip shared by a local civil society organization.”
Below are some examples of content from the banned pages: