Facebook said on Wednesday that it had removed 185 accounts and groups that were used by the military to influence information operations in Thailand. This is the first time the company has deleted Thai accounts linked to the government.

Facebook said it deleted the Thai network in a recent “unreal behavior coordination” on the platform, including 77 accounts, 72 pages, 18 groups on Facebook and 18 accounts on Instagram.

The company stated that these accounts are related to the target audience of the Thai military and the southern provinces of Thailand, where conflicts have broken out intermittently for decades as insurgent groups continue to engage in guerrilla warfare to demand independence.

According to Reuters, a spokesperson for the Thai Army declined to comment on the grounds that not commenting outside the official press conference is a policy issue.

In the past 15 years, about 7,000 people have been killed due to a rebellion in the southern Muslim region (mainly Buddhist Thailand), which is predominantly Malay.

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told Reuters in a briefing: “This is the first time we attribute this withdrawal to the Thai military.”

“We found a clear connection between the operation and the Thai military’s internal security operations command. We can see that all these accounts and groups are tied together and this is part of the operation.”

The network is mainly put into use in 2020. It uses fake accounts and real accounts to manage groups and pages, including public military pages and pages that do not reveal its affiliation with the military.

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Posing as a person

Grecher said that some of the fake accounts were individuals from the southern provinces of Thailand, adding that the network spent about US$350 (approximately 25,500 rupees) on Facebook and Instagram ads.

He added that there are approximately 700,000 accounts following one or more pages, and approximately 100,000 accounts have joined at least one group.

Gleicher said that Facebook’s actions against the Internet were based on deceptive behavior, not on published content, which included support for the military and monarchy, as well as allegations and criticisms of violence against rebel groups in southern Thailand.

This is the second time Facebook has withdrawn its information-affecting business in Thailand, second only to 2019, involving 12 accounts and 10 pages, using “virtual characters.”

In October, Twitter also recorded 926 accounts that were said to be related to the Thai army that promoted pro-military and pro-government content. The army denied that this was behind the account.

In November, Twitter also suspended accounts of Thai supporters related to the palace. According to Reuters analysis, the account was linked to thousands of people who spread content to support the Thai monarchy.

Facebook said on Wednesday that it had shut down four other networks from Iran, Russia and Morocco that participated in this coordinated, untrue behavior.

The company said that in recent years, it has removed more than 100 networks that engage in untrue behaviors worldwide.

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©

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