Facebook Purges Over 500 ‘Russia-linked' Accounts in New Crackdown
Tech giant removes pages linked to Moscow-based Sputnik news
Facebook has announced it has removed more than 500 'Russia related' Pages and accounts, some which it claims are associated with Moscow-based news agency Sputnik.
The tech giant said it had found two separate operations involving in "inauthentic behavior" across platforms, involving attempts to "manipulate people."
The accounts were removed because of attempts to "mislead others about who they were and what they were doing," Facebook said.
The first purge culled 289 Facebook Pages and 75 accounts representing themselves primarily as an independent news outlet.
Facebook said it found the accounts were employees from Russia's Sputnik news.
Based on a tip-off from US law enforcement, the second urge included 107 Facebook Pages, Groups and accounts, as well as 41 Instagram accounts and focused on Ukraine.
”The individuals behind these accounts primarily represented themselves as Ukrainian, and they operated a variety of fake accounts while sharing local Ukrainian news stories on a variety of topics, such as weather, protests, Nato, and health conditions at schools."
"We identified some technical overlap with Russia-based activity we saw before the US midterm elections, including behavior that shared characteristics with previous Internet Research Agency (IRA) activity."
The social network's head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said:
"We're taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they post.
"In these cases, the people behind this activity co-ordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action."
"While we are making progress rooting out this abuse, as we've said before, it's an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded.
"We constantly have to improve to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies. Their collaboration was critical to these investigations."
The news comes months after Facebook blocked dozens of flagged accounts before the midterm elections last year.
According to the social media giant's statement, it became aware of accounts that might be "engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior."
Accounts were blocked, and a further investigation was underway
“Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate,” the statement read.