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Facebook removes dozens of 'false accounts' linked to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, including some used by employees

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro during his inauguration in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 1 2019. Picture by Raimundo Pacco, AP 
Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press

Facebook has removed dozens of accounts linked to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

The social media giant said its decision was based on the creation of false profiles that engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour".

The fake profiles included "fictitious personas posing as reporters" and "pages masquerading as news outlets", the company said.

Facebook's decision comes as Brazil's president goes from crisis to crisis, with different investigations drawing close to him, his family and allies.

Jair Bolsonaro has faced growing political isolation since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has also affected his popularity.

He frequently denounces the media for undermining his administration, and often opts to speak directly to his supporters - whether on Facebook or in person, as they livestream his comments to their followers.

The removed profiles included some used by Mr Bolsonaro's employees.

"We could see that there were employees of these offices engaged," Nathaniel Gleicher, the company's head of cybersecurity policy, said.

"We cannot see evidence and we do not see evidence of the politicians ... or whether there is systemic coordination and direction from the leadership of those offices or not."

Read more: Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus

There was no comment from Brazil's presidential office about Facebook's action.

Mr Gleicher said 73 Facebook and Instagram accounts, 14 pages and one group were removed.

About 883,000 accounts followed one or more of the Bolsonaro-linked pages and an additional 917,000 followed one of more of the Instagram accounts that were removed.

"This network consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on a combination of duplicate and fake accounts - some of which had been detected and disabled by our automated systems - to evade enforcement, create fictitious personas posing as reporters, post content, and manage pages masquerading as news outlets," he said.

The accounts were linked to the Social Liberal Party, which Mr Bolsonaro left last year after winning the 2018 presidential election, and to employees of the president, two of his sons, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro and congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, and two other politicians.

Facebook suspended three other networks yesterday, including one it attributed Roger Stone, a longtime ally of US President Donald Trump.

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