Facebook has accused the government of Nicaragua of running an internet troll farm ahead of the presidential elections this weekend.

BBC News reported that the company behind Facebook and Instagram has got rid of over 1,000 fake accounts in Nicaragua, which were allegedly part of a disinformation campaign by the government.

Meta said those who ran the accounts included employees at the telecoms regulator and the Supreme Court.

The government-ran internet troll farms issue comes before the presidential elections on Sunday, with the president's primary challengers jailed. The U.S. has described the election as a sham.

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Shutting Down Nicaragua's Internet Troll Farm

The social media company said Monday the troll farm was intended to amplify pro-government and anti-opposition content, Al Jazeera reported.

The company noted that the campaign was a coordinated effort to manipulate public discourse using fake accounts.

The government of President Daniel Ortega and the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front Party operated the accounts, according to Ben Nimmo, a threat intelligence lead for Meta.

Nimmo said it was a cross-government operation, with the troll farm consisting of several clusters ran from multiple government entities at once.

The threat intelligence lead officer noted that Meta closed 937 accounts, 140 pages, and 24 groups on Facebook last month, while 363 accounts were removed on Instagram.

Facebook added that the Supreme Court, which is an Ortega ally, also ran smaller clusters of fake accounts. The Nicaraguan Social Security Institute was also doing the same, Reuters reported.

Facebook's investigators said it was one of the most cross-government troll operations that they've disrupted to date.

The operation of the government of Nicaragua also ran a network of blogs, websites, and other social media assets across TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram.

A spokesperson for Alphabet Inc's Google, which owns the YouTube, said the company had terminated 82 YouTube channels and three blogs as part of its ongoing investigation linked to Nicaragua's internet troll farm.

They noted that the channels had fewer than 1,500 subscribers, primarily uploading spammy content in Spanish about gaming and sports.

They added that a small subset uploaded content showing support of Ortega and Sandinista party and criticizing the U.S.

Reuters reported that YouTube concluded that the campaign was consistent with the similar findings reported by Facebook. Meanwhile, other social media companies have yet to comment on the matter.

The troll farm networks had started in April 2019 when student-led protests against the Nicaraguan government erupted.

More than 300 people were killed in shutting down the protests, with tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have gone into exile. BBC News reported that analysis suggests that people were posting on the accounts as their day job.

The EU's foreign policy chief noted that Nicaragua is one "of the worst dictatorships in the world." Facebook has also taken down other government-run networks from Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Thailand, and Azerbaijan. 

They said that it all broke its rules against so-called coordinated inauthentic behavior. The company called it an "especially troubling trend."

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written by: Mary Webber

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