Facebook said on Tuesday it purged nearly 300 accounts and pages run by a Russia-based troll group.
“Today we’re taking an important step to protect the integrity of elections around the world by taking down more than 270 pages and accounts operated by a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency (IRA),” posted Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and founder.
It was only a few months ago when the social network flushed hundreds of fake accounts and pages run by the same group.
The IRA deceived readers by designing Facebook pages run by American activists. Only they were not real.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office charged 13 Russian nationals allegedly linked to the group in February.
“Most of our actions against the IRA to date have been to prevent them from interfering in foreign elections. This update is about taking down their pages targeting people living in Russia,” Zuckerberg added.
Facebook removed 138 Facebook pages, 70 Facebook profiles, and 65 Instagram accounts—all of which had links to the IRA.
The pages aimed at Russian speakers worldwide and neighboring countries such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. The group also spent $167,000 on ads across the Facebook and Instagram accounts since January 1, 2015, wrote Alex Stamos, Facebook Chief Security Officer.
After they found out about the IRA in 2016, Zuckerberg said they removed the accounts and pages to protect the integrity of elections worldwide.
He cited several examples:
- Found and took down 30,000 fake accounts leading up to the presidential election in 2017
- Worked with the Federal Office for Information Security in Germany to learn about threats detected and to share information before the 2017 elections
- Deployed new AI tools to detect and remove fake accounts from Macedonia spreading misinformation in the US Senate Alabama special election in 2017.
- We have also significantly increased our investment in security. We now have about 15,000 people working on security and content review. We’ll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year.
“We removed this latest set of Pages and accounts solely because they were controlled by the IRA — not based on the content. This included commentary on domestic and international political issues, the promotion of Russian culture and tourism as well as debate on more everyday issues,” Stamos added.
Sen. Mark Warner, Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been investigating Russia’s hand in the 2016 U.S. election. He said the Internet Research Agency’s campaign clearly went beyond the Facebook pages removed last year.
“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 and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future,” he said in a press release.
“Security isn’t a problem you ever fully solve. Organizations like the IRA are sophisticated adversaries who are constantly evolving, but we’ll keep improving our techniques to stay ahead — especially when it comes to protecting the integrity of elections,” said Zuckerberg.