© Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Facebook has shut down an alleged network of almost 100 ‘fake accounts’ with conservative leanings in Brazil. The government there now wants explanations from the social network, amid a backlash over apparent election-meddling

“As part of our ongoing efforts to prevent abuse and after rigorous research, we have removed a network of 196 Pages and 87 Profiles in Brazil that violated our authenticity policies,” the social media giant said in a statement. “These Pages and Profiles were part of a coordinated network concealed by the use of fake accounts on Facebook and hid from people the nature and origin of their content for the purpose of generating division and spreading misinformation.”

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While Facebook failed to name the victims of their censorship, the Free Brazil Movement (MBL), announced that their accounts were “arbitrarily removed” by the social network. They labeled accusations against them as “absurd,” noting that over half a million of their followers were affected by Facebook’s decision.

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“Freedom of expression and democracy are pillars of the MBL. We will use all of the legal, political and media resources offered by democracy to recover the blocked pages and undo this persecution,” the group said.

MBL came to prominence in 2015, when it got involved in protests against the leftist then-President Dilma Rousseff and the Workers’ Party. Founded by political activist Kim Kataguiri, it is socially conservative and economically libertarian, describing itself as a “Brazilian Tea Party”. The group says it spreads “liberal and conservative ideas – which is not a crime.” It accused Facebook of political and ideological bias against right-wing groups and leaders around the world.

“Facebook’s goal is to silence right-wing political voices and critically interfere in this year’s elections. A socialist and foreign entity is attacking Brazilian democracy,” MBL coordinator and founding member Robinho Nunes tweeted.

In addition to the MBL, Facebook’s action also affected the Brazil 200 movement, created by entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Flávio Rocha. “It is unacceptable to remove the page of Brazil 200,” Rocha declared on Twitter, noting that Facebook’s decision amounts to violence. “Even at the time of dictatorship this was absurd,” he added, calling on lawmakers to address the issue.

The backlash against Facebook’s decision, which came months before the October general election, prompted Attorney General Ailton Benedito de Souza to seek a written explanation from the Silicon Valley-based company. The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) has asked Facebook to comply with a request that mandates the company to provide a list of all affected pages and profiles as well as the justification for their suspension.

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