Facebook Shuts Down More Than 200 Russian-Backed Pages
On Tuesday, Facebook shut down more than 200 Facebook pages and Instagram accounts created by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA). The mostly Russian-language pages and accounts targeted Russians, Ukrainians and other Soviet states and had amassed roughly 1.5 million followers, the Washington Post reported.
According to Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos, Facebook removed the accounts because the IRA lied about its identity in creating accounts, including some that purported to be American and focused on issues around the upcoming election.
The primarily Russian-language content included entertainment and posts praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and the beauty of Russian cities. The IRA accounts also spent about $167,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads since January 2015, according to Stamos’ blog post. “We know that the IRA and other bad actors seeking to abuse Facebook are always changing their tactics to hide from our security team,” Stamos wrote. “We expect we will find more, and if we do we will take them down too.”
The reference to 2015 in the blog post suggest that at least some of the IRA pages were running during the U.S. presidential election campaign and were left out of a purge of more than 400 IRA pages at Facebook conducted in September 2017. Those pages were written in English and politically oriented, with the intend to influence the election and to sow divisions in American society on issues such a immigration and race.
Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said President Donald Trump had “made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference into our electoral process from any nation-state or other malicious actors,” the New York Times reported.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump declared again on Twitter that there had been “No Collusion” between his campaign and the Russians and asserted that “collusion is not a crime.”
Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
Clint Watts, expert at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, told the Washington Post, “The good news is that Facebook is gaining more and better detection of Russian influence operations.” He continued, “The bad news is this shows that Russia is still conducting influence operations on social media, hurting their platforms. It will be a persistent problem now and in the future, not one limited to the presidential election of 2016.”