Meta says it removed scammers' Canada convoy Facebook groups

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A person walks by trucks blocking roads downtown as truckers and their supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 7, 2022. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

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Feb 7 (Reuters) - Facebook parent Meta Platforms (FB.O) said on Monday it had removed dozens of groups, pages and accounts that latched onto the truck convoy protest in Canada but were run by spammers and scammers, including in Vietnam.

A "Freedom Convoy" has disrupted life in downtown Ottawa for 11 days, starting as a movement against a Canadian vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers but turning into a rallying point against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many of the Canadian governments' public health measures. read more

"We continue to see scammers latch onto any hot-button issue that draws people's attention, including the ongoing protests," said Meta spokeswoman Margarita Franklin.

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"Over the past week, we've removed Groups and Pages run by spammers...who used abusive tactics to mislead people about the origin and popularity of their content to drive them to off-platform websites," she said. Meta said users were sent to websites filled with pay-per-click ads.

The protest in Canada has also been promoted online by right-wing communities and social media influencers in various countries including in the United States.

"The Canadian convoy movement has been championed online by extreme right-wing communities & offered a blue print to extremist COVID protest groups worldwide," Ciaran O'Connor, an analyst from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank which tracks extremism, said on Twitter.

Meta said it had also taken down one Facebook group associated with the convoy protest for breaking its rules against sharing content promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory.

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Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York Editing by Chris Reese

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