According to Facebook, all of the removed accounts and pages were created and operated Raposo Fernandes Associados (RFA), a marketing group based in Brazil. The company constructed a system in which it would use the fake accounts create controversial content and artificially juice the numbers by spreading the posts across its network of pages. Those posts were designed to drag people off of Facebook and onto third-party websites. While the sites might look legitimate at first glance, they actually house ad farms that generate cash for every click.
Much of the conversation about Facebook’s battle with misleading information tends to veer political. In this case, Facebook says there wasn’t apparent intent to interfere with Brazil’s upcoming elections. Instead, RFA was mostly looking to make a quick buck by driving traffic to company-owned websites.
While Facebook managed to remove the spam network from its primary platform, it still has some considerable trouble to address on WhatsApp in Brazil. A recent Reuters report found that the messaging service owned by Facebook has become home of a massive disinformation campaign. Nearly two-thirds of Brazil’s 200 million citizens use WhatsApp, according to the Washington Post, meaning the platform may be even more effective than Facebook for spreading disinformation and causing confusion. Even as Facebook picks off the types of spam rings like the one it caught in Brazil, the campaigns on WhatsApp show that malicious actors are popping up all the time and could be showing up in your News Feed.