Tech giant, Facebook, has closed some accounts allegedly set up by an Israeli firm named Archimedes, used in denting the image of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, and boosting the campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari, Associated Press reports.
The report by United States think tank, Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which analyses misinformation online, said some sample posts removed from Facebook appeared to praise President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and smear his leading opponent, Atiku.
Many of the pages and accounts were discovered to be linked to a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm named Archimedes.
On its sparse website of African stock images, the company advertises its deliberate efforts to conduct disinformation campaigns, boasting that it takes “every advantage available in order to change reality according to our client’s wishes” through “unlimited online accounts operation.”
Facebook banned Archimedes from its platform on Thursday for its “coordinated and deceptive behaviour” and conducted a sweeping takedown of dozens of accounts and hundreds of pages primarily aimed at disrupting elections in African countries, with some scattered activity in South-East Asia and Latin America.
Overall, the misleading accounts had reached some 2.8 million users, and the pages had engaged over 5,000 followers, according to Facebook’s estimates.
One of the pages that Facebook cancelled appeared filled with viral misinformation attacking Atiku, a former Vice President.
The report further read, “The page’s banner image showed Abubakar as Darth Vader, the Star Wars villain, holding up a sign reading, ‘Make Nigeria Worse Again’.
“Another page with almost identical visuals, although significantly excluding the Darth Vader mask, purported to support Atiku, with the slogan ‘Team Atiku for President’.
“The report identified the page as a covert attempt to infiltrate Atiku’s audience of potential voters and manipulate their views, gradually spamming them with antithetical content and diverting them to the ‘Make Nigeria Worse’ page.”
Atiku has dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission and the President to court, accusing them of stealing his victory at the poll. He claims the figures on INEC’s servers show that he won the poll but the results that were resulted were doctored in favour of Buhari.