Facebook said on Wednesday it has shut down 185 accounts and groups involved in an information-influencing operation in Thailand run by the military, the first time it has removed Thai accounts with government links.
Facebook said the Thailand-based network that was removed in its latest survey of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on the platform included 77 accounts, 72 pages, 18 groups on Facebook and 18 accounts on Instagram.
The company said the accounts were linked to the Thai military and targeted audiences in the southern provinces of Thailand, where conflict has raged every now and then for decades as rebel groups continue to wage guerrilla warfare to demand independence.
A Thai military spokesman declined to comment when contacted by Reuters, citing a policy of not making any comments outside of official press conferences.
Around 7,000 people have been killed over the past fifteen years as a result of the insurgency in the predominantly Buddhist southern region of Thailand, which has a Malay language, and which is predominantly Muslim.
“This is the first time that we attribute one of the removals to links to the Thai military,” Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told Reuters in a testimony.
We found clear links between this operation and the internal security operations command of the Thai army. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are linked to each other as part of this process. “
Gleicher said the network, which was mainly active in 2020, used fake and original accounts to run groups and pages, including overt military pages and those that did not disclose their links to the military.
It was brought up as individuals
Some of the fake accounts spread as individuals from southern Thai provinces, Gleicher said, adding that the network spent around $ 350 on Facebook and Instagram ads.
He added that about 700,000 accounts followed one or more of the pages, and about 100,000 accounts joined at least one of the groups.
Gleicher said Facebook took action on the network based on deceptive behavior rather than posted content, which included support for the military and the monarchy, and allegations of violence and criticism of rebel groups in southern Thailand.
The move was the second removal from Facebook of information influencing operations in Thailand, after one operation in 2019 involving 12 accounts and 10 pages that used “fake people”.
In October, Twitter Inc also deleted 926 accounts it said were linked to the Thai military that promoted pro-military and pro-government content. The military denied being behind these accounts.
In November, Twitter suspended an account in support of the Thai monarchy linked to the palace, which a Reuters analysis found linked to thousands of others posting content favoring the Thai monarchy.
Facebook said, on Wednesday, that it had removed four other networks from Iran, Russia and Morocco that were involved in such co-ordinated, non-genuine behavior.
The company said it has removed more than 100 networks involved in fraudulent behavior globally in recent years.