Facebook freezes accounts and pages linked to Russian misinformation agency

According to Facebook, 70 Facebook accounts, 138 Facebook pages, and 65 Instagram accounts controlled by the Internet Research Agency have been suspended. Alex Stamos who is the Chief Security Officer made this announcement posting sample ads and pages supposedly run by the Russia-linked disinformation outfit. Stamos wrote, “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 organization whether linked to activity in the US, Russia or elsewhere.” The company also removed ads linked to these accounts.

Stamos said that finding the pages took “months of work”. About 95% of the pages with language-specific content were aimed at Russian speakers and 1.08 million users at any rate followed one of the pages. The Instagram accounts had a total of 493,000 followers and accounts jointly spent about $167,000 on ads since the beginning of 2015. Facebook’s sampling of IRA posts includes pages called RuOpen, Politkach, and Spicy Blogger, that posted content like political jokes and demanding “strange or scary” from readers. Stamos says they were removed for being secretly involved with the IRA, not for content.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that this update was “about taking down [IRA] pages targeting people living in Russia. This Russian agency has repeatedly acted deceptively and tried to manipulate people in the US, Europe, and Russia and we don’t want them on Facebook anywhere in the world.”

This announcement came while Facebook is braving a political controversy involving Cambridge Analytica that siphoned data from about 50 million users before the US 2016 elections.

Facebook has systematically stigmatised the IRA for giving away its core ethos of “authenticity.” In 2017, Facebook identified about 3,000 divisive ads aimed at American users during the elections and supposedly suspended 30,000 accounts in the leadup to the French presidential election along with a system for fact-checking news. Facebook released a tool that allows people see if they liked or followed a propaganda account, a tool it plans to update to include these new pages.

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