Facebook claims Myanmar telco spent $1.2m on fake accounts to criticise competitors

Facebook has removed a network of fake pages and accounts that were allegedly operated by Vietnam’s Viettel and Myanmar’s Mytel — both are owned by Viettel Group — for the purposes of discrediting their competitors.

In its first Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour Report [PDF] published on Monday, Facebook claimed that the two telcos ran 13 fake Facebook accounts and 10 pages to post critical commentary about their competitors in Myanmar’s telco market. 

The Facebook accounts posed as customers of competing telcos that would post criticisms about them, the report said, while the pages pretended to be independent telco consumer news websites. These accounts and pages accrued over 265,000 followers.

According to the report, the telcos spent almost $1.2 million on Facebook advertisements to spread these fake accounts and pages.   

facebook-fake-account-example.png

Example of content posted by one of the fake Facebook pages.

Image: Facebook

“The page admins and account owners typically shared content in English and Burmese about alleged business failures and planned market exit of some service providers in Myanmar, and their alleged fraudulent activity against their customers,” Facebook said in the report.

This is the first time Facebook has published the report, which will be released on a monthly basis. The report was created to address “coordinated campaigns that seek to manipulate public debate” across Facebook’s various apps, like those that were used to incite genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. 

Facebook conceded in 2018 that its platform was used to foment division and incite offline violence following the ethnic cleansing of the Rohinga Muslims in Myanmar.

Last year, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards did not mince words when he labelled the social network as “morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar)”.

Edwards added that the company refuses to “accept any responsibility for any content or harm”.

Outside of Myanmar, Facebook also removed foreign influence campaigns originating in India, Egypt, Russia, and Iran during the month of February. In total, Facebook removed 467 Facebook accounts, 1,245 Instagram accounts, 248 Facebook pages, and 49 groups it said were used to spread disinformation during this period. 

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