Facebook, Twitter remove fake news sites in Bangladesh

DHAKA • Facebook and Twitter said they had removed accounts and fake news pages linked to the Bangladesh government that had posted anti-opposition content, days ahead of an election in the South Asian nation.

Facebook, Bangladesh's most popular social network with an estimated 30 million users, said on Thursday it had removed nine fake news pages "linked to individuals associated with the Bangladesh government" which mimicked those of independent news outlets.

It also took down six accounts as they, along with the pages, were found "engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour". One of the accounts had 11,900 followers.

Bangladesh's Interior Minister Assaduzzaman Khan said action would be taken against people behind the fake accounts. "Even if someone has a link with the ruling party, he will not be spared," Mr Khan told Reuters.

Facebook's head of cyber-security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement that the company did not want accounts created to mislead anyone.

"This kind of behaviour is not allowed on Facebook under our misrepresentation policy because we don't want people or organisations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing."

Facebook and other tech giants are under pressure to increase efforts to remove misleading or illegal content, and ensure fake news is not uploaded and disseminated.

Twitter said it had identified and suspended 15 accounts originating from Bangladesh for "engaging in coordinated platform manipulation".

"Based on our initial analysis, it appears that some of these accounts may have ties to state-sponsored actors," it added. The accounts had fewer than 50 followers, it said.

Facebook and other tech giants are under pressure to increase efforts to remove misleading or illegal content, and ensure fake news is not uploaded and disseminated.

Although Facebook has stepped up fact-checking, it still faces criticism that it is too slow in closing rogue accounts.

Facebook's move comes as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League is seeking to win a third straight term in power amid accusations of carrying out attacks on opposition party candidates.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2018, with the headline 'Facebook, Twitter remove fake news sites in Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe