Facebook data leak exposes Balkan troll farm disinformation

Occurred: September 2021

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According to a leaked Facebook 2019 document, troll farms are estimated to have reached 140 million US users per month and nearly half of all Americans in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Largely based in the Balkans, the troll farms are seen to have targeted four primary groups - American Indians, Black Americans, Christian Americans, and American women - with a mixture of propaganda, misinformation and disinformation.

Authored by former Facebook data scientist Jeff Allen and leaked to the Technology Review, 75 percent of those users consumed troll content not because they followed a page but because Facebook’s recommendation engine proactively served it to them.

According to the Technology Review, Allen left Facebook shortly after writing the document, partly because the company 'effectively ignored' his research.

In October 2021, it came to light that a book on Veles, the 'fake news' capital of North Macedonia, by Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen, turned out to be an elaborate work of disinformation itself. 

Operator: Meta/Facebook
Developer: Meta/Facebook
Country: US
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Scare/confuse/destabilise
Technology: Content recommendation system
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Mis/disinformation
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Page info
System: Incident
Published: October 2021