This time, Facebook found and booted 270 IRA accounts.
Facebook is still finding — and banning — accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll army with ties to the Kremlin that tried to sway public opinion on Facebook during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Facebook announced on Tuesday that has removed more than 270 Facebook and Instagram accounts controlled by the IRA. Unlike the other IRA accounts Facebook was aware of — the one’s targeting U.S. voters that were removed last fall — these accounts were “targeting people living in Russia,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post.
“This Russian agency has repeatedly acted deceptively and tried to manipulate people in the US, Europe, and Russia — and we don’t want them on Facebook anywhere in the world,” he added.
Facebook has already banned hundreds of IRA accounts. Last fall, Facebook said that IRA-controlled accounts were responsible for creating propaganda around the 2016 election that was seen by more than 126 million people on Facebook alone.
The fact that Facebook is still identifying these kinds of accounts shows you just how hard it can be to find them. Tuesday’s announced ban comes more than five months after Facebook testified before Congress on this issue — and almost a year after the company first published a paper explaining how Russia used its service to try and manipulate voters.
Facebook says that its decision to ban the IRA didn’t actually have to do with anything the accounts were posting. Instead, it had to do with the fact that the agency set up “fake accounts” on Facebook to spread its propaganda.
“We’ve found the IRA has been using complex networks of fake accounts to deceive people. While we respect people and governments sharing political views on Facebook, we do not allow them to set up fake accounts to do this,” Zuckerberg wrote. “When an organization does this repeatedly, we take down all of their pages, including ones that may not be fake themselves. The pages and accounts we took down today were removed because they were controlled by the IRA, not based on the content they shared.”
This offers another example of why finding and removing accounts that deliberately spread misinformation, or deliberately try to stoke political fires, are not always removed. Facebook and Zuckerberg don’t want to make judgements about what these accounts post. They only wants to decide whether or not the accounts themselves adhere to the company’s user guidelines.
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