Fake news and propaganda still rife on Facebook - report

Part of a vast web of accounts spreading far-right fake news on Facebook has been taken down ahead of the EU elections.

The social media giant says it's removed 77 pages and 230 accounts operating across Europe, followed by 32 million people, reported TechCrunch. The pages had been viewed more than 500 million times.

But they were only a fraction of the 500-plus suspicious accounts reported by non-profit campaign group Avaaz in a new report, Far Right Networks of Deception, released Thursday (NZ time).

"On average, these networks produced content that was seen almost 6 million times per day," the report reads.

In Germany, the fake accounts "were boosting the reach of the far-right AfD party and spreading disinformation", and some were even operated by a party member.

"In France, 44 pages and groups were identified: one network spreading disinformation, and others posting dehumanizing, racist and white nationalist content, targeting migrants in particular."

Pages targeting Italy spread "divisive anti-migration and hateful messages" designed to boost the populist Five Star Movement, and the UK had pages dedicated to the milkshake-attracting Tommy Robinson, who's banned from the site.

Many of the pages would start as one thing - focusing on a popular activity such as sport, cooking or jokes - then over time switch focus to hate and propaganda.

Several pages would post links to the same content at the same time, tricking Facebook's algorithms into thinking it's popular, increasing the likelihood it appears in users' feeds.

"Millions of Europeans have been exposed to the lies, manipulation, and hate described in this report, and the overwhelming majority of them will never find out about it," the report said.

"And neither will the billions more who will be exposed during the next election, and the next one after that - unless Facebook acts now."

Avaaz director Christoph Scott told The Guardian it was good that Facebook removed some of the pages and accounts, but should have done a "better job" finding them in the first place.

"They should do this themselves. We are around 30 people, they have over 30,000 in their safety and security team."

Facebook promised after the 2016 to crack down on disinformation and fake accounts, many of which were later traced back to Russia.

Thousands of adverts run by Russia's Internet Research Agency reportedly aimed at stoking division and swaying the election in Donald Trump's favour were revealed last year.

Facebook banned white supremacist and nationalist content earlier this year, following the Christchurch attacks.