Facebook Inc has suspended a network of social media accounts it says are used to spread divisive political messages online by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons.
The company said that despite efforts to disguise who was behind the activity, it had found links to the staff of two Brazilian lawmakers, as well as the president and his sons, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro and Senator Flavio Bolsonaro.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the accounts were removed for using fake personas and other types of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” which violated the company’s rules.
He said there was no evidence the politicians themselves had operated the accounts.
“What we can prove is that employees of those offices are engaged on our platforms in this type of behaviour,” he told Reuters ahead of the announcement on the company’s blog.
Facebook said it has also suspended three other networks on Wednesday, including one it attributed to Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of US President Donald Trump.
The allegations by Facebook add to a burgeoning political crisis in Brazil, where Bolsonaro’s sons and supporters have been accused of running a coordinated online campaign to smear the president’s opponents.
The accusations have spurred a congressional inquiry and a separate Supreme Court investigation into so-called “fake news attacks” on the country’s judiciary, which led to police raids in May on the homes and offices of Bolsonaro allies.
Bolsonaro, who is also under mounting criticism over his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has said the court’s investigation is unconstitutional and risks establishing censorship in Brazil by policing what people can say online.
Facebook has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to better police how political groups use its platform.
Hundreds of advertisers have joined a boycott aimed at forcing the company to block hate speech on its site, and multiple employees walked out last month over CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to challenge inflammatory posts by President Donald Trump.