Facebook bans fake Russian accounts targeting US voters
Facebook has banned dozens of accounts linked to a Russian agency that is accused of being behind a mass misinformation campaign. Many of the accounts claimed to be based in Florida and representing activist groups.
Facebook has announced new security measures aimed at preventing its platform from being used to interfere in elections, including the suspension of a network of Russia-based accounts containing "divisive" political messages aimed at US voters.
The social media giant faced heavy criticism over failing to prevent fake accounts based in Russia from spreading misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.
The company said Monday that the banned networks "showed links" to Russia's Internet Research Agency, which operated a "troll farm" Washington says was instrumental in interfering with the 2016 vote.
Read more: Hackers target democratic institutions in Europe, says Microsoft
Facebook has admitted that the Internet Research Agency was able to exploit the platform to reach 126 million Americans during the election.
In 2018, the US Department Justice indicted the Internet Research Agency for "creating false personas" to operate social media pages "designed to attract US audiences," addressing divisive US political and social issues and "falsely claiming to be controlled by US activists."
A report released Monday by the social media analytics firm Graphika said the takedown involved 50 accounts on the picture sharing platform Instagram, half of which claimed to be based in swing states, especially Florida.
Graphika said the accounts were all linked to the same operation and claimed to represent activist groups from both sides of the political spectrum with a high potential for polarization.
These included "black activist groups, advocates speaking out against police violence, police supporters, LGBT+ groups, Christian conservatives, Muslims, environmentalists, gun-rights activists, southern Confederates and supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump."
Read more: Russian propaganda: 'A multitude of lies and absurd news'
"The operators went to great lengths to hide their origins," said the Graphika report, adding that most of the posts were memes without text.
The campaign also appears to have been created recently, Graphika said, with most of the Instagram accounts in the operation having a low number of followers and a combined total of 75,000 posts.
Amid warnings from US officials of election interference in 2020, other steps announced by Facebook on Monday include labeling posts from state-controlled media, and adding hacking protection and monitoring services for accounts of elected officials and candidates.
Please also see these additional sources
Russian propaganda: 'A multitude of lies and absurd news'
Kremlin media polarize and undermine democratic processes in Europe using a new form of expansive digital authoritarianism that threatens the achievements of liberal democracies, says DW's Ingo Mannteufel. (16.05.2019)
Hackers target democratic institutions in Europe, says Microsoft
Microsoft has accused Russian hacking group Fancy Bear of launching a series of recent attacks against think tanks in Europe. Cybersecurity is a major concern ahead of European parliamentary elections in May. (20.02.2019)
Facebook exempts politicians' posts from fact-checking
The social network has said it won't be an arbiter of appropriate political speech following public scrutiny over freedom of expression versus dubious content. The stance comes ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. (25.09.2019)
Facebook deletes hundreds of Russian troll pages
The US technology giant has shut down more than 360 pages and accounts, with some tied to an infamous troll farm. Under immense pressure, Facebook has started to target online influence operations and hate speech. (17.01.2019)
Who are the Russian trolls indicted by the US?
Journalist and whistleblower Lyudmila Savchuk once worked at Russia's St. Petersburg-based troll factory, hoping to expose it. She spoke to DW about the recent indictment of Russians on charges of election interference.