Facebook again takes down Russian accounts as malign actions continue
SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook once again removed a number of pages, groups and accounts that originated in Russia amid a continuing campaign of malign influence targeting numerous regions, including Central Asia.
The accounts were being deceptive about who was behind them and their motives, according to Facebook and its image-centric social network Instagram.
Facebook described the removals as part of a continuing battle against "co-ordinated inauthentic behavior" that has resulted in the deletion of numerous fake accounts worldwide.
"We found two separate, unconnected operations that originated in Russia and used similar tactics, creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said in a blog post Monday (May 6).
The announcement follows a similar effort in March, when the company removed more than 2,600 pages, groups and accounts in Russia that engaged in co-ordinated malign influence on Facebook and Instagram.
Those operations were connected to Russia, Iran, North Macedonia and Kosovo, said Gleicher in a blog post at the time.
Two months earlier in January, Facebook removed more than 500 pages, groups and accounts originating in Russia for engaging in malign influence operations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
In April 2018, Facebook also announced the shutdown of hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts connected to a Russian "troll factory" accused of attempting to influence public opinion around the world.
The move by the social media company was based on the deceptive behaviour of those behind the accounts, not on the content posted, said Gleicher.
Ukraine was the focus of 97 Facebook accounts, pages, or groups that the social network removed this week, according to Gleicher.
The perpetrators used fake accounts to operate pages and groups, spread their content and ramp up engagement, as well as to induce users to visit an outside website, he said.
Posts by the account typically involved local and political news, such as military conflict in eastern Ukraine, civil war in Syria and Russian politics, according to the blog post.
Facebook did not disclose the identities of those behind the accounts.
The pages involved had about 34,000 followers each, and about 86,000 Facebook users had joined at least one of the groups, Gleicher said. Only a single dollar was spent on a Facebook ad, which ran more than a year ago.
"We identified some of these accounts and pages through follow-on investigations of the accounts and pages we removed earlier this year ahead of the elections in Ukraine," he said. "We have shared information about our analysis with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners."
An additional 21 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages that Facebook removed focused on Austria, the Baltic states, Germany, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, according to the company.
Those accounts posted content related to political issues such as immigration, as well as to religion and NATO, Facebook said.
The campaign used fake accounts, impersonating other users, and amplified "allegations about a public figure working on behalf of intelligence services," Gleicher said.