Facebook deletes over 60 accounts spreading fake info on virus

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TAIPEI (CNA) — Facebook recently deactivated over 60 accounts that helped Chinese internet trolls disseminate fake information about the current COVID-19 pandemic to Taiwanese internet users, according to a source familiar with the issue on Friday.

The accounts, which had maliciously spread false information about the coronavirus disease to the Taiwanese populace in hopes of creating public panic, were deactivated last week, the unnamed source told CNA.

The accounts had even created fake official documents to try to mislead the public, according to the source.

The Chinese accounts pretended to be Taiwanese users by using traditional Chinese character names, the source said, adding that Facebook was able to determine their authenticity by the times they were created and their IP addresses.

However, it is unclear if these fake accounts were directly linked to the Chinese government, the source said.

Another unnamed source said that the methods used by the Chinese trolls have become harder to detect. In the past, they used to just create a fan page to spread fake information, but now they visit and leave many messages on different fan pages, which makes their actions harder to detect.

Previously, Chinese trolls would mainly spread fake news to sway political elections, but now false information about the coronavirus is used to create public panic, the source said.

Facebook uses multiple resources to find fake information, including Taiwan FactCheck Center, which provides information to the social networking service if it detects any abnormalities.

During a meeting Thursday organized by the National Communications Commission for social networking platforms, Facebook also shared information regarding deactivating fake accounts spreading falsities on the coronavirus.

Facebook said it has always acted on any violations of social media code of conduct, such as fraud. Hence, it has removed accounts that impersonated Taiwanese users and attempted to mislead the public by spreading false information.

The company said it will continue to monitor the issue and take proactive action against fake information related to COVID-19.