Facebook closes 23 Italian pages ahead of EU vote

Facebook announced on Monday it has closed 23 Italian pages, including many supporting the country's populist government parties, for spreading fake news and breaking other social network rules. The move, coming ahead of the European Parliament elections, was taken in response to an investigation by Avaaz, a global campaigning group, news wires reported.

"We have removed a number of fake and duplicate accounts that were violating our authenticity policies, as well as multiple pages for name change," a Facebook spokesperson said in a Monday statement."We also took action against some additional pages that repeatedly posted misinformation. We will take further action if we find additional violations," the spokesperson said. The statement thanked Avaaz for flagging up its concerns and said Facebook was "focused on protecting the integrity of elections across the European Union and around the world."

In a separate statement, Avaaz said the pages that were closed down had a total of 2.46m followers and used to spread false or divisive messages against migrants, vaccines and Jews. One of them shared a video of migrants smashing a police car, without warning viewers that it was a scene of a film. The video has attracted almost 10m views, Avaaz said.

Other groups changed their names surreptitiously to support the far-right League of deputy premier Matteo Salvini or its coalition ally, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).One pro-M5S political page, for example, was originally called "Sexy Bombs," and another one supporting Salvini first attracted followers with the name "The worst of Big Brother 2018."

The EU has warned of foreign interference in campaigning for the vote of May 23-26, and in April the European Commission urged Google, Facebook and Twitter to do more to tackle fake news before the poll.

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