As part of its efforts to rid its platform of Russian IRA trolls, Facebook has announced that it has discovered hundreds of linked accounts, which it has now removed.
It’s not Facebook‘s year. The company has gone from one scandal to another since the news of Russian involvement in the U.S Presidential elections back in 2016, and it now needs to work hard to regain the trust that it has lost as a result of them, including the recent privacy breach. As part of its efforts to clear up its platform Facebook has announced its recent actions against Russian troll farms related to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), and the content they have shared.
In a recent blog post, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer says that the company has removed a total 70 Facebook accounts, 138 Facebook Pages, and 65 Instagram accounts recently that it identified as having been used by the IRA to interfere with elections. Stamos explains that the IRA used these “inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people.” He also explained that the accounts were removed “solely because they were controlled by the IRA — not based on the content.”
95% of the accounts in question were in the Russian language, or targeted Russian-speaking users in Russia, neighbouring countries like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, but also countries as far afield as Brazil. There were over 1 million users following at least one of the Facebook Pages, and nearly 500,000 users following at least one of the Instagram accounts. In terms of advertising, the accounts accounted for over $160,000 on ads on the platforms since 2015.
Since realising the extent of the election interference, Facebook has “improved [its] techniques to prevent nation states from interfering in foreign elections,” and has been building “advanced AI tools to remove fake accounts more generally.” Mark Zuckerberg also recently commented that there are currently 15,000 people working to review Facebook content – his promise was to double the 10,000, to 20,000 this year.
In his post, Zuckerberg explains that its efforts “have all made it harder for nation states to interfere in foreign elections,” and that the update has helped identify “a large network the IRA is using to manipulate people in Russia itself.”
Whether Facebook will be able to be effective in its efforts is yet to be seen, yet the company is being a lot more transparent lately, especially since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke a few weeks ago.