‘Vast’ Far-Right Propaganda Targeting EU Citizens on Facebook, NGO Says ahead of Elections

‘Vast’ Far-Right Propaganda Targeting EU Citizens on Facebook, NGO Says ahead of Elections

Facebook has removed dozens of pages and hundreds of profiles based on the findings of Avaaz.

“Vast” far-right propaganda networks dubbed “networks of deception” are targeting the citizens of the European Union, international rights NGO Avaaz said in a report on Tuesday ahead of the 2019 EU elections.

The far-right Facebook pages in question utilize tools such as fake news, fake quotes, and videos taken from feature films to be presented as documentary footage, the Avaaz report reveals.

The international rights NGO identified some 500 dubious Facebook pages and groups potentially implicated in far-right propaganda in the six most populous EU member states: Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, and Poland.

Facebook already deleted 77 of those pages and 230 individual accounts after it got contacted by Avaaz; the Facebook pages in question had a combined following totaling 5.9 million users.

That is substantially more than the combined total of Facebook followers of the official pages of each of the respective EU nations’ leading far-right party: Germany’s AfD, France’s National Rally, the UK’s Brexit Party, the Italian League, Spain’s Vox, and Poland’s PiS. Taken together the official party pages have just about 2 million followers.

The content described as malicious by the Avaaz report was seen about 533 million times.

“[The EU is] drowning in disinformation,” Avaaz’s campaign director Christoph Schott said, commenting on his NGO’s report on far-right propaganda on Facebook just days before the 2019 EU elections to be held on May 23-26.

“The size and sophistication of these networks makes them weapons of mass destruction for democracy, and right now they are pointed squarely at Europe. The most worrying thing is we’ve just scratched the surface,” he elaborated.

“Millions of Europeans have been exposed to the lies, manipulation, and hate described in this report, and the overwhelming majority of them will never find out about it,” the NGO report states.

“And neither will the billions more who will be exposed during the next election, and the next one after that — unless Facebook acts now,” it adds.

The Avaaz report points out as examples far-right Facebook pages from Italy and Poland using excerpts from actual feature films presenting them as video footage of migrants committing crimes.

In Spain, far-right pages have been found to use a tactic of getting launched with innocuous names which then get changed over time to reflect their true identity.

In Germany, a page supporting “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) was found to be using fake quotes attributed to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.

In France, far-right pages were found to post the identical content rather than re-sharing content posted on one of them because that boosted the visibility of their messages.

According to the NGO, Facebook’s acting upon their findings to remove far-right pages and profiles was an “unprecedented” cleanup but also “nowhere near enough.”

“Facebook should make sure everyone who saw this disinformation receives an urgent correction, and stop their algorithms promoting this poison,” Avaaz representative Christoph Schott said.

(Banner image: Avaaz report)

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