Facebook says removed over 200 accounts to Russian trolls

James Marshall
April 4, 2018

The pages and accounts collectively spent $167,000 on advertising since January 1 2015, according to numbers provided by Facebook.

In total, Stamos said the 138 Facebook pages and 65 Instagram accounts that were removed reached approximately 1.5 million unique users. According to Facebook, the majority of these pages were written in the Russian language, and were created to appeal to Russian speakers, including those living in Russia and neighboring countries, and Russian speakers overseas.

"We've found the IRA has been using complex networks of fake accounts to deceive people".

The content appears to be fairly benign. "The pages and accounts we took down today were removed because they were controlled by the IRA, not based on the content they shared". The Internet Research Agency also bought ads over the platforms, a few of which ran taglines such as "Will you go vote for Putin in the presidential election?" and "Are you from the Moscow suburbs?" He added that 95% of the content on the removed pages was in Russian.

The pages were linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm known for pushing ads aimed at American voters with divisive messages about social and political issues during the 2016 election cycle.

Facebook's announcement, titled, "Authenticity Matters: The IRA Has No Place on Facebook", comes as the social media giant faces heightened scrutiny over a security issue that allowed the data firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the personal information of 50 million Facebook users without their permission. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and advocate of greater transparency for online political advertisements, warned Facebook to continue rooting out fake accounts.

Last November, Facebook's CEO said he was "dead serious" about stopping state-sponsored trolls from exploiting the platform.

Earlier this year, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities - including the IRA - of operating Eastern European and Russian troll farms and waging "information warfare" against the U.S. "It's why we don't want them on Facebook". But US officials are still anxious the propaganda efforts could strike again in this year's mid-term election.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been criticized by those who say he shrugged off warnings about the fake-news epidemic on the platform.

Since the 2016 poll, which featured waves of Russian propaganda flooding America's unregulated social media platforms, including Twitter and Google, Facebook has come under increasing pressure too better regulate its online ads and newsfeeds to prevent the spread of misinformation.

"I am glad that Facebook is taking some steps to pinpoint and address this activity, but I also expect Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg, along with other platform companies, to continue to identify Russian troll activity", he added.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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