Facebook has reportedly targeted fake accounts in France ahead of the country's presidential election. The initiative is part of a global effort to combat fake news and misinformation.
Facebook said it was taking decisive action against thousands of fake accounts, including deleting some of those that boasted a large following. The company used automated detection systems to read some of the tell-tale signs of fake profiles, such as repeated postings of the same content or an increase in messages sent by fake accounts.
"We've made improvements to recognize these inauthentic accounts more easily by identifying patterns of activity - without assessing the content itself," Shabnam Shaik, a Facebook security team manager, wrote in an official blog post.
French right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen is likely to make it through the first round of votes on April 23
The world's most recognized social network confirmed that it has been attempting to "reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts."
Facebook has come under pressure in Europe, with several governments pushing for the introduction of new laws to curb the social media giant unless it stops the spreading of fake news and extremist content.
Fighting fake news
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have come under scrutiny in recent months for allowing spam, hoaxes, fake news and other sources of misinformation to stand uncensored alongside national election campaigns. With algorithms catering to a user's online habits, timelines on social networks can leave voters uninformed on important topics or skew their views.
Facebook has taken a number of steps to allow users to report potential fraud amid stark criticism that it had allowed fake news to spread on its platform during the 2016 US presidential elections.
With elections due to take place in France and Germany in coming months, Europe is paying close attention to online services like Facebook when it comes to their influence on politics.
In Germany alone, social networks such as Facebook can face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million) following the introduction of new legislation designed to combat online hate speech. There, Facebook has taken out full-page ads in Germany's best-selling newspapers to educate audiences on how to spot false information.
In France, where the first of two rounds of presidential elections will take place on April 23, Facebook is running a number of fact-checking programs alongside French media, hoping to combat fake news and misinformation.
Facebook says it will also remove financial incentives that have helped spammers, who profit by generating advertising revenue from clicks on false news stories.
ss/kms (AP, Reuters)