Facebook removes pages of Brazil activist network before elections
By Brad Haynes SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc on Wednesday took down a network of pages and accounts used by a right-wing Brazilian activist group, cracking down on what it called a misinformation network ahead of elections in October.
By Brad Haynes
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc
Facebook said in a statement that it deactivated 196 pages and 87 accounts in Brazil for their part in "a coordinated network that hid behind fake Facebook accounts and misled people about the nature and origin of its content, all for the purpose of sowing division and spreading misinformation."
The statement did not identify the pages or users involved, and a Facebook representative declined to identify them.
However, sources told Reuters that the network was run by senior organizers from Movimento Brazil Livre (MBL) or "Free Brazil Movement."
MBL later said in a statement on Twitter that several of its organizers had been affected, confirming the Reuters report.
The group rose to prominence in 2016 leading protests demanding the impeachment of leftist former President Dilma Rousseff with an aggressive style of online politics that has helped to polarize debate in Brazil.
The MBL statement criticized Facebook for blocking several organizers without giving a full explanation, complaining that some of the banned accounts were using members' real names and personal information.
"Freedom of expression and democracy are pillars of the MBL. We will use all of the legal, political and media resources offered by democracy to recover the blocked pages and undo this persecution," the group said.
A federal prosecutor in the state of Goias called on Facebook to disclose the pages and accounts it had deactivated, along with a justification for each, within 48 hours.
Facebook declined to comment on the prosecutor's request or the criticism from MBL.
The deactivated pages, which together had more than half a million followers, ranged from sensationalist general news feeds to political fare with an openly conservative slant, carrying names such as Jornalivre and O Diario Nacional.
By misrepresenting the shared control of the pages, MBL organizers were able to spread their coordinated messaging as if it were coming from various independent news outlets, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Facebook said it took down the network in Brazil after a "rigorous investigation" because the profiles involved were false or misleading, violating its authenticity policies. The social network has a separate set of tools to discourage the distribution of fake news with help from outside fact checkers.
Facebook has been under heavy pressure to stop the use of fake accounts and other types of deception on its network.
The company last year acknowledged that the platform had been used for what it called "information operations" employing fake accounts and other methods to influence public opinion during the U.S. election in 2016, and it pledged to crack down.
U.S. intelligence agencies say the Russian government engaged in a campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election, and cases of political groups using social media in deceptive ways have since emerged around the world.
There was no indication of foreign involvement in the MBL network taken down on Wednesday, the sources said.
(Reporting by Brad Haynes; additional reporting by Lais Martins; editing by Marguerita Choy and Cynthia Osterman)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
U.S. home sales fall as tight supply boosts prices | Reuters
France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.