Meta Removes Over 160 Accounts Linked to Hamas: Report

Meta has removed 160 Facebook accounts and Instagram accounts that are linked to Hamas (a terrorist designated group), according to The Jerusalem Post.

The accounts were reportedly primarily operated in the Gaza Strip and targeted “Palestinian territories,” according toThe Post. The outlet further noted that “[t]he accounts primarily posted news stories, cartoons and memes in Arabic about current events in the region, including the postponed Palestinian election, criticism of Israeli defense policy, Fatah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and supportive commentary about Hamas.”

In 1997, Hamas was declared a terrorist group by the United States.

The pages were removed for what Meta calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior” (CIB) and had thousands of followers. Meta’s efforts were detailed in the company’s “Adversarial Threat Report” posted on Wednesday.

Meta reportedly stated that CIB is “coordinated attempts to manipulate public discourse for a strategic purpose where fake accounts are centrally involved.” The Post reports that almost $21,000 was spent in Instagram and Facebook ads. This is primarily in U.S. Dollars.

Meta reported that certain pages were claimed to have been operated by news websites in Israel, the West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula. The Post

“The networks used different behaviors, but all have one thing in common — each actively coordinated to target people and abuse our systems,” Meta wrote. “As we continue building our understanding of these emerging threats, we will keep sharing our findings with industry peers, independent researchers, law enforcement and policymakers – including on these new disruptions — so we can collectively improve our defenses. As we improve our methods, external experts are welcome to provide feedback.

One post provided by Meta cautioned against “alleged attempts by Israel to impersonate charities in order to gather information for operations and a post from the Palestine 21 news network,” according to The Post.

Twitter is less likely to respond to accounts belonging to terrorist groups, although it has removed accounts linked to Hamas, Hezbollah, and other organizations after many requests. 

TechCrunch reports that Twitter first distinguished between military and political factions of terrorist groups. In 2019, House members responded strongly and wrote to Twitter that “this distinction is not meaningful, nor is it widely shared. The United States Government has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. Period.”

TechCrunch reports that these accounts were suspended later after an investigation.

“Twitter’s policy is to remove or terminate all accounts it identifies as owned or operated by, or directly affiliated with, any designated foreign terrorist association. Twitter will identify an account that is affiliated with Hamas and Hizballah if it finds one. [sic], Twitter’s policy is to terminate that account,” a Twitter spokesperson wrote to the House at the time.

The Twitter spokesperson added that “Twitter also takes significant steps to identify accounts that are not directly affiliated with a designated foreign terrorist organization but which nonetheless promote or support violent extremism.”