Facebook says it has removed 168 accounts, 28 pages, and eight Instagram accounts from its social-media platforms after they were discovered to be "engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting people in Moldova" ahead of the country's February 24 parliamentary elections.
"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review found that some of this activity was linked to employees of the Moldovan government," Facebook's cybersecurity policy chief Nathaniel Gleicher said in a February 14 statement.
Gleicher said the activity originated in Moldova and "used a combination of fake accounts and some authentic accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing."
"Given the upcoming elections in Moldova, we wanted to let people know about the action we've taken and the facts as we know them today," he said.
According to Gleicher, the page administrators and account owners "typically posted about local news and political issues" -- including mandatory Russian or English-language education and the debate over "reunification with Romania."
"They also shared manipulated photos, divisive narratives, and satire," he said.
In one case, he said, the page of a local fact-checking organization that "called out other pages for spreading fake news" was impersonated.
About 54,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages and around 1,300 accounts followed at least one of the Instagram accounts that was removed, he said.
"We have not completed our review of the organic content coming from these accounts," Gleicher said. "We identified these accounts through our internal investigation into Moldova-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior."
The Facebook cybersecurity chief said Facebook's investigation into the Moldovan case benefited from information that was "shared by a local civil society organization."
He did not specify which nongovernmental organization provided the tip.