Facebook cracks down on smear campaign against Manchester City

Posts praising Qatar and criticising Saudi Arabia point to targeted fake news campaign by Doha

 (FILES) In this file photo taken on April 21, 2020 the Etihad Stadium complex, home to English Premier League football team Manchester City, is pictured in Manchester, northern England, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. Premier League clubs will meet on May 1, 2020, to discuss whether it is realistic to complete the season as Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero admitted players are scared at being rushed back into action.  / AFP / Paul ELLIS
Powered by automated translation

Facebook has cracked down on a fake news campaign aimed at discrediting Premier League club Manchester City.

The US social media giant removed dozens of pages, groups and accounts that it said had breached its policy “against foreign or government interference”.

The removed pages and groups had directed unsuspecting social media users to false stories repeating persistent slurs against the Premier League champions.

The now-deleted accounts were traced back to India but many also carried stories praising Qatar, the UK’s Press Association reported.

Some of the accounts involved in the campaign against Manchester City also posted insulting content about Saudi Arabia, which points to a concerted effort being directed from Doha.

The details of the social media crackdown were first reported in Facebook’s monthly Co-ordinated Inauthentic Behaviour Report,  which details its efforts to remove propaganda campaigns from its platforms.

India often serves as a centre for fake news operations carried out by other states.

In another report, the social media company Graphika detailed the activity of pro-Qatar "bots", which are software applications that run automated tasks over the internet.

They have been found at the centre of attempts to influence the world's political agenda and elections.

Manchester City have long believed that their ownership had been targeted by its rivals.

They declined to comment on the matter but it is understood that officials at the Etihad Stadium are aware of Facebook’s actions.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have placed travel and diplomatic bans on Qatar for its support for extremism and interference in the internal affairs of its neighbours.

Manchester City is owned by Abu Dhabi.