Facebook security chief Alex Stamos announced today that around 140 Facebook and Instagram accounts as well as 138 Facebook-controlled sites controlled by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) have been removed from its platforms. The IRA is best known as a state-sponsored propaganda machine that has been propagating Russian propaganda for years and employing hundreds of so-called trolls.
In February, US Special Envoy Robert Mueller filed a lawsuit against a dozen current or former IRA employees and IRA promoter Evgeny Prigozhin for his role in disseminating misinformation on Facebook and other social media platforms from 2014 to 2016. Facebook – and Instagram accounts that were closed today were aimed primarily at Russian-speaking populations in Russia and other parts of the world more than 1
Some of the pages removed today touched politics, while others dealt with more everyday topics such as tourism or other topics. The IRA has spent around $ 167,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads since 2015, including $ 100,000 for political ads.
While some deleted content such as Instagram posts strike nationalist or pro-Putin tones, others seem apolitical: arts, animals play or sunset St. Petersburg. Accounts and pages were simply removed today because of their connections to the IRA.
"The IRA has repeatedly used complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people using Facebook, including before, during, and after the 2016 US presidential election, so we do not want them on Facebook," Stamos said in a blog post. "We removed this last set of pages and accounts just because they were controlled by the IRA – not based on the content."
Perhaps this is more convincing than the fact that Facebook has removed these accounts, Facebook let them stay on their platforms for so long. Stamos said his team has been working for months to uncover more IRA activity on its platforms, but reports at outlets like BuzzFeed and the New York Times have documented IRA misinformation since 2014.
Last September, on the same day that Facebook announced its plans to redesign political advertising, Colin Stretch said Facebook would share the content of thousands of IRA ads that were being used by Congressional members before and after the 2016 elections. Investigators and Mueller would run.
Two months later, Facebook announced plans to provide people with a tool that notifies users who have tracked or liked IRA content. The same tool can also tell people if they were connected to one of the recently removed accounts.
"The IRA has consistently used inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people," Stamos said. "That's why we're removing every account we find that's linked to the organization – whether it's doing business in the US, Russia or elsewhere."
VentureBeat has asked Facebook when the social media giant first became known The accounts and Facebook pages removed today have been linked to the Internet Research Agency. We will update this story if we get something back.