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Meta Says Nearly 50,000 Journalists and Activists Were Targeted by Sophisticated Spying Operations on Facebook and Instagram

MENLO PARK (CBS NEWS) -- Meta said Thursday that it removed roughly 1,600 fake accounts from Facebook and Instagram that were being used by seven "surveillance-for-hire" companies to target and compromise the accounts and devices of journalists and human rights activists around the world.

The seven surveillance providers implicated in the report are located in China, Israel, India and North Macedonia. Their alleged operations targeted nearly 50,000 people in over 100 countries on behalf of individual clients, business, and law firms based in at least 23 countries, including the U.S., Israel, China, and Saudi Arabia, according to Meta.

"The global surveillance-for-hire industry targets people across the internet to collect intelligence, manipulate them into revealing information and compromise their devices and accounts," Meta said in a blog post. "These companies are part of a sprawling industry that provides intrusive software tools and surveillance services indiscriminately to any customer regardless of who they target, or the human rights abuses they might enable."

Meta said the threat actors posed as journalists from prominent organizations such as FOX News, human rights activists and film and TV producers. They allegedly attempted to set up calls and obtain the target's contact information for future phishing attacks, according to Meta.

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