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Facebook shuts down network linked to German anti-COVID group, launches rules on ‘social harms’ By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – This illustration, taken on March 25, 2020, shows a 3D-printed Facebook logo placed on a keyboard. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration


By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) – Facebook (NASDAQ:) has removed a network of accounts linked to an anti-COVID restrictions movement in Germany as it announced a new crackdown on coordinated campaigns of real users that cause harm on and off its platforms.

Reuters exclusive reported Thursday that Facebook security teams are expanding their tactics to eliminate influence operations by using fake accounts. They plan to shut down more coordinated groups of real users causing harm through mass reporting and brigading.

Facebook’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher stated that the company has been trying for months to employ its strategies against “coordinated and social harm”.

According to Gleicher, these types of campaigns often involve well-organized networks that are systematically violating Facebook’s policies. They also do not infringe the company’s guidelines on how influence can be used against unsafe organizations or fake accounts.

These changes may have a major impact on how the largest social media network in the world handles organised political and social movement. The company recently reported on its influence operations and stated that it noticed a significant trend of the blurring of authentic public discussion and manipulations by domestic and foreign campaigns. (https://

How platforms should enforce against offline activities, which is often described vaguely in their rules, is also an area of debate which has gained attention in connection with violent events such as the U.S. Capitol riot.

Querdenken, a group of protesters that has criticized Germany’s coronavirus restrictions, is known as Querdenken. Facebook stated that Querdenken’s network was responsible for harmful health misinformation and hate speech. They also claimed it incited violence. The Facebook group said Querdenken had been involved with off-platform physical violence, COVID related social harms, and other such activities.

Reuters asked Querdenken to comment but they did not reply immediately.

Facebook was under investigation for misinformation that it handled regarding anti-vaccine, COVID-19, and other topics. It said Querdenken would not be banned from its sites.

The company claimed it had removed 150 accounts and groups from Facebook and Instagram and blocked their domains from sharing. Reuters couldn’t immediately reach Querdenken activists for comment.

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