Facebook takes down more malign Russian influence accounts
Facebook Tuesday (March 26) removed more than 2,600 pages, groups and accounts that engaged in co-ordinated malign influence on Facebook and Instagram.
The operations were connected to Russia, Iran, North Macedonia and Kosovo, said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook's cybersecurity policy, in a blog post.
The activities of these accounts, he said, "used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing".
Almost 2,000 of these Facebook pages, groups and accounts were linked to Russia.
The individuals behind these activities used fake accounts primarily to spread malign content about Ukraine, Crimea and other hot-button issues.
A number of the accounts taken down were operated out of Kazakhstan, he added.
Not the first time
It was only two months ago when Facebook removed more than 500 pages, groups and accounts originating in Russia for engaging in malign influence operations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
Facebook, in its latest crackdown on rogue users, found that it was the target of two Russia-based influence operations -- one active in Central Asia and a variety of former Soviet republics and another focused specifically on Ukraine.
The company removed 364 pages and accounts that posed as independent news sites or general interest sites but were found to be linked to employees of Sputnik, Russia's main online media outlet and propaganda arm of the Kremlin, he said.
"We identified some technical overlap with Russia-based activity we saw prior to the US midterm elections, including behaviour that shared characteristics with previous Internet Research Agency (IRA) activity," Gleicher said at the time.
The IRA is a St. Petersburg-based "troll factory" accused of attempting to influence public opinion around the world -- including in Central Asia.
Central Asia users
Social media users in Central Asia say they are growing wiser to Russia's disinformation campaigns and support Facebook's decision to crack down on inauthentic accounts.
"I have no doubt that this is the work of the Russian troll factory," Almaty-based businessman Sayat Jumakhan told Caravanserai in January. "This is their trademark -- create hundreds of fake accounts, spread propagandistic and libellous articles and [post] incitements."
"They work in Central Asia too," he said. "In the countries of our region, they smear local activists who express ideas about new, high-priority paths of development for Kazakhstan and whom the Kremlin doesn't like."
"Russian trolls describe any ambitions toward national identity and toward the revival of cultural values as 'fascism,'" Jumakhan said. "They're completely willing to use unethical and even harsh language."