Facebook may be mired in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but that doesn’t mean it’s stopped fighting Russian trolls. Yesterday, the social network revealed it had removed 70 Facebook and 65 Instagram accounts, along with 138 Facebook Pages, all run by the notorious, Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA).
The Russian troll farm accounts removed today spent around $167,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads since 2015. This is on top of the $100,000 it paid Facebook to place political ads aimed at influencing the US election. The IRA was one of five Russian entities and 19 individuals to have sanctions imposed on them by the Treasury Department over allegations of election interference.
The social network’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said the IRA’s repeated use of unauthentic accounts designed to deceive and manipulate people is why they were being removed.
“We removed this latest set of Pages and accounts solely because they were controlled by the IRA — not based on the content,” he explained.
Stamos says 95 percent of the accounts and Pages were in Russian and targeted Russia or Russian-speakers in nearby countries including Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. 1.08 million users followed at least one of the Facebook Pages, and 493,000 users followed at least one of the Instagram accounts.
In a Facebook post discussing the move, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that since discovering the Russian interference, the company had “improved our techniques to prevent nation states from interfering in foreign elections, and we’ve built more advanced AI tools to remove fake accounts more generally.” He added that 15,000 people now work on security and content review—up from 10,000—and Facebook intends to hire 5000 more by the end of the year.
Senator Mark Warner tweeted a response to Facebook’s announcement. He said that while he was glad the company is addressing this activity, he expected it to work with Congress on “updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future.”
Statement on Facebook's announcement regarding accounts controlled by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency: pic.twitter.com/pBzd8JVmOW— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) April 3, 2018