Facebook takes down more malign Russian influence accounts

Caravanserai and AFP


The Facebook booth is shown January 24 during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. [Fabrice Coffrini/AFP]

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.


A Facebook announcement of last April 3 shows sample Facebook advertisements from pages and accounts controlled by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA). Facebook said on March 26 it removed another 2,600 pages, groups and accounts, with the majority linked to Russia. [Facebook]

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."

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Good job. Russia has no right to that as long as it has no democracy and freedom of speech.


Yes, yes. It is necessary to root out any dissent in order to protect this Western freedom of speech! That's how we will prevail!


Special agencies in Central Asia and Facebook executives have co-operated effectively and blocked Russian propaganda websites targeting Central Asia