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  • Rikki Lambert

Facebook unfriends Nicaraguan trolls

The multinational corporate giant formerly known as Facebook, 'Meta', says they have removed a 'troll farm' with over 1000 Facebook and Instagram accounts that were run by the Nicaraguan government and the country's ruling party.

Meta Platforms, the company that runs Facebook, says it has cancelled 937 accounts linked to the government of Nicaragua and the Sandinista party of President Daniel Ortega.

Meta is under scrutiny in Australia leading into the imminent federal election on what is believed to be a profound impact on public sentiment towards parties and candidates.

On Nicaragua, Meta says it also removed 140 deceptive pages, 24 groups and 363 Instagram accounts for violating the company's policy against "co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour on behalf of a foreign or government entity".

Meta said it was a classic example of a "troll farm", which it defined as attempts "to corrupt or manipulate public discourse by using fake accounts to ... mislead people about who's behind them".

The firm said the network of accounts was launched after mass protests against the government in 2018. The accounts sought both to denigrate members of the opposition, and praise the government. Some of the accounts purported to be students from a Nicaraguan university that was an epicenter of the protests.

Nicaragua is set to hold elections on November 7 in which Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term. But those elections have been rendered almost moot by the government's arrests of critics and seven potential challengers.

Starting in May, Ortega began arresting almost any public figure who publicly disagreed with him, including people who fought alongside him in the country's 1979 revolution. Families of 155 political prisoners said in a statement that their loved ones have been subjected to "mistreatment and torture" in prison.

The country's main opposition coalitions have said that Ortega's moves have "ended any vestige of real electoral competition".

Meta said the troll farm removed in October was operated from the offices of the postal service, noting:

"...additional smaller clusters of fake accounts were run from other government offices, including the Supreme Court and the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute".


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