Facebook and Instagram ban 135 Russian accounts

Facebook has identified and removed 135 accounts linked to a Russian influence campaign during the US presidential election.

After “months of work”, the social network said it has banned 70 Facebook and 65 Instagram accounts – alongside 138 Facebook pages – which were controlled by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), an organisation based in St Petersburg.

Alongside 13 Russian nationals, the IRA was charged with interfering in US politics in February. Its activities form a core part of allegations regarding Russian interference during the 2016 race.

Although the pages taken down do not seem to be substantially connected to that influence campaign, the company said they did run advertisements which have now also been removed.

According to Facebook, roughly 95% of the pages that had content were in Russian, and were targeted at people in Russia or “neighbouring countries like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine”.

:: Facebook – “Russia used us as an ‘information weapon”

Facebook offered an infographic regarding the Internet Research Agency
Image: Facebook offered an infographic regarding the Internet Research Agency

The identification of the troll accounts comes more than two months after Twitter announced that it had identified about 4,000 accounts on its platform which had interacted with 1.4 million users.

Last year, Facebook told the US Congress that Kremlin-linked trolls had reached 126 million Americans through disinformation operations conducted on its platform.

To combat this, the company said it would make advertising more transparent by “creating a portal” which would let its users know if they interacted with IRA pages or accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

This portal has not yet launched, but the company’s statement adds that its help centre tool would be updated “in the next few weeks… so anyone can check if they liked or followed” an IRA account or page.

Facebook stated: “The IRA has consistently used inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people. It’s why we remove every account we find that is linked to the organisation – whether linked to activity in the US, Russia or elsewhere.

“We know that the IRA – and other bad actors seeking to abuse Facebook – are always changing their tactics to hide from our security team.

“We expect we will find more, and if we do we will take them down too. But we’ll keep fighting and we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to constantly improve safety on Facebook.”

:: US Congress reveals Russian trolls’ Facebook propaganda

A sample of the posts on Facebook
Image: A sample of the IRA-linked posts and pages on Facebook

The statement, written by Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, follows a difficult month for the company’s public image.

Following allegations that data belonging to its users was harvested by Cambridge Analytica, the company’s senior executives have been summoned to appear before MPs in the UK and Congress in the US.

More from Facebook

The scandal saw its share price fall by more than 15% – wiping tens of billions from its valuation and igniting criticism of Mark Zuckerberg’s delayed response.

In the US, the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is also ongoing.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here