Social media giant Facebook has announced the deletion of more than 270 accounts reportedly operated by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian disinformation operation. All in all, 138 pages, seventy-five accounts and sixty-five Instagram accounts to tide the IRA were removed.
“The IRA has repeatedly used complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people who use Facebook, including before, during and after the 2016 US presidential elections. It’s why we don’t want them on Facebook,” Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos wrote in a blog post this week.
According to Facebook, the 138 Facebook pages had more than 1 million followers and the 65 Instagram accounts had about 493,000 followers. Ninety-five percent of all suspended accounts and pages targeted native Russian speakers.
The IRA has reportedly spent $167,000 on advertisements across the social media platforms since 2015. According to Facebook, an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. were exposed to advertisements purchased by the IRA – half of them after the November 2016 election. Facebook says most of the content focused on “divisive social and political messages.”
”Most of our actions against the [IRA] to date have been to prevent them from interfering in foreign elections. This update is about taking down their pages targeting people living in Russia,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in another 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.”
The news comes after it was revealed in a New York times article last month that Cambridge Analytica acquired the personal information of over 50 million users and failed to delete it as was requested. That number was revealed to be closer to 87 million users earlier this week.
“Most of our actions against the [Internet Research Agency] to date have been to prevent them from interfering in foreign elections,” Zuckerburg wrote in a status update on his Facebook account. “This update is about taking down their pages targeting people living in Russia. 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.
The Russian government harshly criticized the move. “Yes it is,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked by a reporter about Facebook’s decision to close the accounts associated with the Russian troll farm. “We are of course following this and we regret it,” he added.
Zuckerburg has already committed to testify later this month in front of The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee have also expressed interest in talking to the Facebook founder about what happened during the 2016 election.