Facebook Wednesday (February 12) said it purged dozens of accounts linked to Russian military intelligence in the latest effort to root out manipulation and disinformation on the social network.
The Russia-based network, which included 78 Facebook accounts and four on Instagram, focused mainly on Ukraine and neighbouring countries and posted content about the conflict in Syria, ethnic tensions in Crimea and the downing of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine in 2014.
Facebook owns Instagram.
"Although the people behind this network attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to Russian military intelligence," Facebook head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a blog post.
The move is the latest by social networks seeking to crack down on foreign manipulation including efforts to artificially promote certain political messages, often with misinformation.
Facebook last October said it had taken down a number of accounts tied to Russia whose owners were attempting to meddle in the 2020 US presidential elections.
Those accounts reused messages from the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), which targeted US audiences in the 2016 presidential election.
Russian online "troll factories" meanwhile have been ramping up their operations in Central Asia as Moscow moves to realise its strategic ambitions in the region.
Such operations often present two faces to their different audiences, cultivating a positive image of Russia and promoting its policy for consumption within Central Asian countries while simultaneously smearing migrant workers from Central Asia on TV and other media in Russia.
Last May, Facebook 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.
Facebook in April 2018 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.
Iranian meddling in the United States
Also on Wednesday, Facebook blocked other accounts originating in Iran on Facebook and Instagram for "engaging in foreign or government interference", Gleicher said.
Facebook removed six Facebook and five Instagram accounts from Iran that were focused on the United States and US-Iranian relations for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" and for apparent links to a similar network taken down by Facebook in January 2019.
"They shared posts about political news and geopolitics including topics like the US elections, Christianity, US-Iran relations, US immigration policy, criticism of US policies in the Middle East and public figures as well as video interviews with academics, public figures and columnists on issues related to Iran and US elections," Gleicher said.