Facebook takes down fake Italian accounts ahead of EU election


FILE PHOTO: Stickers bearing the Facebook logo are pictured at Facebook Inc’s F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) – Facebook said on Sunday it had taken down numerous Italian accounts on its platform that were false or were spreading fake news ahead of a European parliamentary election later this month.

The European Union has warned of foreign interference in campaigning for the vote of May 23-26, and in April the European Commission urged Google, Facebook and Twitter to do more to tackle fake news before the poll.

“We have removed a series of false and duplicated accounts which violated our authenticity policy, as well as several pages due to violation of rules on name changing,” a spokesman for Facebook in Italy said in an emailed statement.

“We also took action against some pages that repeatedly spread incorrect information,” he said, adding that an investigation by online activist group Avaaz had prompted the decision.

Avaaz said on Sunday that Facebook had taken down 23 Italian accounts with a total of more than 2.46 million followers which were spreading “false information and divisive content” over issues such as migration and vaccines as well as anti-Semitism.

More than half the accounts taken down supported either the 5-Star or the League, the two parties in the Rome government coalition, Avaaz said.

Keen to avoid more heavy-handed regulation, the tech giants had pledged in October to fight the spread of fake news.

“We’re committed to protecting the integrity of elections within the European Union and in the whole world,” the Facebook spokesman said.

Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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