Facebook says that the accounts and pages were part of two unrelated disinformation operations aimed at non- US targets.
Hundreds of accounts and pages linked to Russia have been closed on Facebook due to “coordinated inauthentic behavior” or disinformation.
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook’s cybersecurity policy, wrote today in a blog that the shuttered pages and accounts( both Facebook and Instagram) represent two unrelated disinformation networks. One operation was directed at Ukraine and the other at Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries, Central Asia and the Caucasus region.
The US law enforcement agency has tipped Facebook into the Ukrainian network, which last year spent $ 25,000 on Facebook ads. The network showed some “technical overlap with Russia’s activity before the US mid- term elections,” wrote Gleicher and similar behavior to that of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm indicted by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interference in the US presidential election in 2016.
Facebook has shut down 107 groups, pages and accounts (with a total of 180,000 followers) and 41 Instagram accounts (55,000 followers) related to this operation. The other network was an extension of content to a state- sponsored media organization in Russia.
As described in a comprehensive report by the Digital Forensics Research Lab(DFRLab) of the Atlantic Council.
The pages masqueraded as groups with special interests — ranging from food to support for authoritarian presidents — and amplified content from the Kremlin’s media agency, Rossiya Segodnya, especially that of its subordinate online news outlet Sputnik.
The nature of the activity varied. The Sputnik editors admitted that Sputnik ran certain pages in Latvia, but at the other end, ” a sub- group of nine pages in Georgia was run by an account that appeared to be actively fraudulent” and bought advertisements specifically to promote the content of Rossiya Segodnya, DFRLab wrote. ” Most of the network pages were covered, with no link to Rossiya Segodnya and no other specific identity.” According to Gleicher, Facebook shut down 75 accounts and closed 289 pages, representing 790,000 followers and $ 135,000 in publicity. “The decision is clearly political.
This is censorship,” Sputnik told the Associated Press. A Facebook representative said in a statement to Dark Reading, “As Nathaniel said in his post today, we downloaded these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they post.
In these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated and misrepresented themselves using fake accounts, which was the basis for our action.” Read more here at AP, here at DFRLab and here on Facebook.