Numerous fake accounts posting on Facebook pages of Estonian publications

  • 2021-01-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – There are numerous fake accounts representing non-existent persons posting on the Facebook pages of Estonian publications in an attempt to influence public opinion, the daily Postimees writes.

Propastop, a blog analyzing anti-Estonian influence activity, said that although a large amount of personal content has been created for some accounts, it does not provide a clear indication of the account holder.

Propastop analyzed the names, content, posts, photos and other material of dozens of accounts posting on the Facebook pages of news publications, but failed to identify who the account actually represented.

Posts made by fake accounts include neutral debate, ranting criticism regarding the coronavirus, memes and photo compilations mocking the fight against COVID-19, as well as the clear dissemination of conspiracy theories.

Of the Estonian-language media, the Facebook page of Postimees has the largest audience and is followed by approximately 163,000 accounts. Delfi's Facebook page is followed by approximately 141,000 accounts and the Facebook page of the news portal of public broadcaster ERR by approximately 19,000 accounts.

The activity of the media channels' Facebook pages is different. While ERR, for example, posts an average of three news items a day, then the newsrooms of Delfi and Postimees publish their material on Facebook much more extensively, Propastop said.

From the recent period, there is a clear trend that coronavirus-related posts matter to people and these are shared and commented on. While posts of articles on other topics usually receive 10-30 comments, the number of comments under posts of articles concerning the coronavirus usually starts at 50 and often reaches a few hundred.

In terms of the activity of the posts, Delfi is at the forefront, which is why the largest number of fake accounts active in the comment section of Delfi's Facebook page. There are dozens and dozens of different fake accounts. There is a significantly smaller number of fake accounts trolling on the Facebook page of Postimees, and one can find only a few on ERR's page.

Social media plays an increasingly important role in the lives of most people. Fragments of one's daily life, moods, thoughts, emotions are shared on social media and other people's opinions and views are agreed or disagreed with there. That is why it is important to know who one is holding a discussion with on social media, Propastop said.

According to Propastop, people's beliefs can be influenced and directed by societal pressures, meaning individuals often embrace the beliefs of a larger group. However, if this larger group, whose beliefs people are beginning to consider as their own, is not a group of individuals, but one person's network of fake accounts that only amplifies their worldview, then it is clearly a manipulation of information.

Such activities are often carried out to promote one's ideology, beliefs or economic interests, by presenting the concern about or support for something by a larger group in society and, with this, calling on individuals to join.

Facebook says in its terms of service: "When people stand behind their opinions and actions, our community is safer and more accountable. For this reason, you must: use the same name that you use in everyday life; provide accurate information about yourself; create only one account (your own) and use your timeline for personal purposes; and not share your password, give access to your Facebook account to others or transfer your account to anyone else (without our permission)."

Therefore, fake accounts are all such accounts that do not clearly and intelligibly represent a real person, but are either semi- or completely anonymous, meaning it is not possible to clearly state who is behind the account on the basis of the information on the account's page.