Removal of new types of harmful networks

My team coordinates our business-to-business efforts to find and prevent opposing actors from targeting people on our platform – from covert influence operations and targeted cyber espionage activities to crooks and spammers. As we improved our ability to disrupt these networks globally, we continued to better understand the different types of threats, including genuine user threats, and how best to counter them. While our work began by tackling inauthentic operations where people hide who is behind them, we have also seen genuine actors engaging in hostile and harmful behavior on our platform and on the internet. In our recent Threats Report, we highlighted the tendency for threat actors to deliberately blur the lines between genuine and non-genuine activities, making enforcement more difficult in our industry.

Over the past few months, we’ve been working with teams at Facebook to expand our network disruption efforts so that we can deal with threats from groups of authentic accounts coordinating on our platform to provoke social harm. Today we are sharing our app against a network of accounts, pages and groups managed by people associated with the Querdenken movement in Germany. In this article, I’ll share more about our thinking and the application protocols we’ve put in place to tackle coordinated social harm.

What is coordinated social harm?

Coordinated social harm campaigns typically involve predominantly genuine user networks organizing to systematically violate our policies in order to cause harm on or off our platform.. We are already removing infringing content and accounts under our community standards, including for incitement to violence; intimidation and harassment; or disinformation harmful to health.

However, we recognize that in some instances these content violations are perpetrated by a tightly organized group, working together to amplify the harmful behavior of their members and repeatedly violate our content policies. In these cases, the potential for harm caused by all network activity far outweighs the impact of each individual position or account. To more effectively respond to these organized efforts, we have developed application protocols that allow us to take action against the core network of accounts, pages, and groups involved in this behavior. Within this framework, we can take a series of actions, including reducing the scope of content and deactivating accounts, pages and groups.

Act against a network linked to Querdenken in Germany

We took down a network of Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages and groups for engaging in coordinated efforts to repeatedly violate our community standards, including posting false health information, hate speech and incitement to violence. We have also blocked their domains from being shared on our platform. This network was operated by individuals associated with the Querdenken movement in Germany, which is linked to off-platform violence and other social wrongs.

The people behind this activity have used genuine and duplicate accounts to post and amplify violating content, primarily focused on promoting the conspiracy that the German government’s COVID-19 restrictions are part of a larger plan to target to deprive citizens of their fundamental rights and freedoms. This activity appeared to involve several Internet and Internet services at large and generally portrayed violence as the means to overturn government measures related to the pandemic limiting individual freedoms. Based on public reports, this group has engaged in physical violence against journalists, police officers and doctors in Germany.

This network has consistently violated our community standards against health-damaging disinformation, incitement to violence, intimidation, harassment and hate speech, and we have repeatedly taken action against their infringing posts. While we do not ban all Querdenken content, we continue to monitor the situation and will take action if we discover additional violations to prevent abuse on our platform and protect people using our services.

We shared information on our findings with industry peers, researchers, law enforcement and policy makers. In doing so, we hope to increase public understanding of this evolving space, including the potential damage to the society it represents. Additionally, we welcome feedback from research and expert communities and will continue to refine and strengthen this anti-abuse work on our platform.

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