Pacific Media Watch

7 October 2019

INDONESIA: Facebook removes hundreds of fake Indonesian, West Papua accounts

Facebook removed the "misleading" accounts which featured content either criticizing or supporting the West Papuan independence movement. Image: RNZ

JAKARTA (Reuters/Al Jazeera/Pacific Media Watch): Facebook has removed over 100 fake accounts linked to operations in Indonesia for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” reports Reuters.

The accounts, which were also on Instagram, appeared in Indonesian and English and featured content which either criticised or supported the West Papuan independence movement.

However, Facebook said that it took down the accounts based on their behaviour, not the content.

READ MORE: Vanuatu Daily Post: Indonesia online propaganda undermining West Papua

“This was a network of pages designed to appear like local media organisations and advocacy organisations,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s Global Lead for Threat Disruption.

According to Reuters, Agranovich and his team had been monitoring Indonesia in light of the unrest in Papua and had tracked the false accounts which would share content, buy adds and drive traffic to certain sites including that of an Indonesian media firm called InsightID.

Al Jazeera reports that as much as $US300,000 was spent on Facebook ads paid in the Indonesian currency, rupiah.

Last month, the Vanuatu Daily Post reported that the BBC journalist Benjamin Strick had uncovered clear evidence of a bot network operating on Twitter, which drove traffic and spread pro-Indonesian propaganda through the hashtags #freewestpapua and #westpapua.

Linked accounts to Facebook were often able to attract more traffic and viewers than official news sites by paying to use the platform's “boost” option and spreading the post to more people.

In response to increasing extremist content, Facebook has made a point of cracking down on such fake accounts in recent months, reports Al Jazeera.

In March, it removed 200 pages, groups and accounts linked to the former social media manager of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for misleading people.

The accounts and posts in question posted about local news, elections and alleged misconduct by political candidates opposed to the Duterte administration.

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons