Meta Removes Surveillance Groups From FB & Instagram for Spying on Users

Facebook’s parent company Meta Inc. has uncovered the activities of more than half a dozen private spy companies that have been involved in spying and other cybercrimes, targeting a total of about 50,000 people. According to a Reuters report, Meta’s feud with spy firms led to revelations about digital spy services from US tech companies, US lawmakers, and President Joe Biden’s administration, particularly about the Israeli spyware company NSO Group. 

Meta Removes Surveillance Groups From FB & Instagram for Spying on Users

The NSO group was blacklisted earlier this month following revelations about how Facebook’s technology was being used against civil society. Meta is already suing NSO in a US court. Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, told Reuters that the crackdown was intended to signal that “the surveillance-for-hire industry is much broader than a single company.”

According to the company, they have removed more than one and a half thousand fake accounts which were being run by 7 organizations on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. According to Meta, these spy companies targeted people in more than 100 countries. The company did not elaborate on how it identified the spying firms, but the company operates the world’s largest social and communications networks and regularly recruits malicious actors from its platforms. 

The spy companies whose accounts were removed include Israel’s Black Cube, which was notorious for being used by Hollywood rapist Harvey Weinstein to deploy spies. Meta said the intelligence firm is deploying Phantom Persons to chat with its targets online and collect their emails. Other companies include the Indian cyber firm Bell Trox, which was exposed by Reuters and Internet Watch Duff Citizen Lab last year. Meta also accused Israeli companies Blue Hawk CI and European company Citroux of hacking.

These cyber groups often claim to target only criminals and terrorists. However, according to the statement issued by Meta,

Journalists, human rights activists, the families of opposition members and critics of the government are being targeted. Therefore, the company banned them from the platform.

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