Facebook Accounts Purged Before Midterm Elections Russian-linked
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has announced that numerous pages and accounts taken down on the eve of the midterms were possibly connected to a Russian government-linked troll group. The pages targeted people across the political spectrum on Facebook as well as on Instagram. Some of the pages had been running for more than a year.
The company reported that it removed 36 Facebook accounts, six Facebook pages, and 99 Instagram accounts for what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Some of the Instagram accounts portrayed themselves as fan accounts for celebrities like Nicki Minaj, Kid Rock, and Kendrick Lamar. The accounts attempted to spread politically divisive content on matters like race and gender.
According to the company, the pages and accounts were followed by more than 600,000 users in the United States and had about 1.25 million followers worldwide. The six accounts purchased roughly $4,500 in ads, which did not run in the US. The company did not say where the ads had been purchased from or what currency had been used to buy them. Some of the pages posted in French and had very few American followers
The company first revealed that it had found the accounts just before the midterm elections, but had not disclosed the exact details of them. The company now says that authorities believe the pages “may be linked to foreign entities.” Shortly after Facebook’s announcement, a website claiming to represent the IRA took responsibility for operating the pages.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a blog post, “”Ultimately, this effort may have been connected to the IRA, but we aren’t best placed to say definitively whether that is the case. As multiple independent experts have pointed out, trolls have an incentive to claim that their activities are more widespread and influential than may be the case.”