Facebook bans accounts over USA midterms interference campaign

Leroy Wright
November 8, 2018

Facebook, Inc. said it has identified and blocked some 30 Facebook and 85 Instagram accounts over concerns of foreign election interference, on the eve of the USA midterm elections.

The social network said it had been contacted by U.S. law enforcement on Sunday evening, alerting it to online activity which may be linked to foreign entities.

"Sunday morning, the authorities responsible for the enforcement of the act we have contacted about activities that they have recently discovered and who, could they be related to foreign entities", says the press release.

On Monday, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, announced that it has removed 30 accounts from its namesake platform 85 Instagram accounts for possible links to "foreign entities". They include 30 Facebook accounts, mostly in Russian and French, and 85 Instagram accounts, mostly in English.

US prosecutors have accused the so-called troll farm in St. Petersburg and other Russian Federation operatives of seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election, including by spreading misinformation and sowing discord on social networks. It did not rule out further accounts coming under the microscope. The accounts focused on everything from political debate to celebrities, though it remains unclear the extent to which the users were attempting to influence voters or distribute propaganda, if at all. Facebook also disclosed sophisticated attempts from Russian Federation to interfere with elections and promote political discord in the U.S.

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"Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly", Gleicher said in the statement.

It was not immediately clear if the accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities, according to the statement.

Facebook had removed 82 pages linked to Iran late last month for the same reason. The statement detailed government efforts to prevent election interference.

Facebook is ramping up its action against "fake" players.

Twitter says it has identified more than 4,600 accounts and 10 million tweets, mostly affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, that it says were linked to foreign meddling in US elections, including the presidential vote of 2016.

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