LONDON (Reuters) - Facebook said on Thursday it is taking action against tens of thousands of fake accounts in France as the social network giant seeks to demonstrate it is doing more to halt the spread of spam as well as fake news, hoaxes and misinformation.
The Silicon Valley-based company is under intense pressure as governments across Europe threaten new laws unless Facebook moves quickly to remove extremist propaganda or other content illegal under existing regulation (http://reut.rs/2oBwHEO).
Social media sites including Twitter, Google's YouTube and Facebook also are under scrutiny for their potential to be used to manipulate voters in national elections set to take place in France and Germany in coming months.
In a blog post, Facebook said it was taking action against 30,000 fake accounts in France, deleting them in some, but not all, cases. It said its priority was to remove fake accounts with high volumes of posting activity and the biggest audiences.
"We've made improvements to recognize these inauthentic accounts more easily by identifying patterns of activity — without assessing the content itself," Shabnam Shaik, a Facebook security team manager, wrote in an official blog post.
For example, the company said it is using automated detection to identify repeated posting of the same content or an increase in messages sent by such profiles.
Also on Thursday, Facebook took out full-page ads in Germany's best-selling newspapers to educate readers on how to spot fake news.
In April, the German cabinet approved proposed new laws to force social networks to play a greater role in combating online hate speech or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million). (http://reut.rs/2oDqo6Z)
These actions by Facebook follow moves the company has taken in recent months to make it easier for users to report potential fraud amid criticism of the social network's role in the spread of hoaxes and fake news during the U.S. presidential elections.
It has also begun working with outside fact-checking organizations to flag stories with disputed content, and removed financial incentives that help spammers to cash in by generating advertising revenue from clicks on false news stories.
(Reporting By Eric Auchard in London and Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Editing by Susan Fenton)