'Facebook has shut down a raft of right-wing populist accounts accused of spreading fake news to millions ahead of the EU elections next week.
The social media giant acted last week after being tipped off by the left-wing campaign group Avaaz, who said their investigation uncovered pages spreading 'divisive' anti-migration, anti-vaccine and anti-Semitic content.
More than half of the pages, which had a total of almost 2.5 million followers, supported the far right anti-immigrant League Party or the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which form the ruling coalition, Avaaz said in a statement.
We have removed a number of fake and duplicate accounts that were violating our authenticity polices,' Facebook said on Sunday.
One pro-League page shared a video which it said wrongly depicted migrants smashing up a police car.
The footage was in fact filmed for a movie, but was viewed almost 10 million times, days ahead of next week's European parliament elections in which Italian populist parties hope to do well.
The most active page translates as 'We want the Five Star Movement in government' which had shared a quote wrongly attributed to anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano that he would 'prefer to save migrants than Italian earthquake victims.'
Saviano was forced to publicly deny having said it.
'This is more proof that lies designed to sow hate and division in our societies are being spread deliberately on social media ahead of the EU elections,' said Avaaz's Christoph Schott.
'Facebook has done a good job in taking these pages down, but it says a lot that a multi-billion dollar company is relying on a crowd-funded Avaaz investigation to defend Europe's democracy. Facebook need to do more, and they need to do it fast.'
Avaaz also noted the practice of 'recycling followers' used by some supporters of the two ruling parties, whereby a page with non-political content changes its name to become political or partisan, retaining likes and followers.'
Read more: Facebook shuts down string of right-wing 'fake news' accounts accused of spreading anti-migration and anti-Semitic messages in Italy ahead of EU elections