Facebook removes more pages tied to Russian operators

San Francisco (AFP) –


Facebook on Monday said it removed more pages, groups and accounts that originated in Russia and were being deceptive about who was behind them and what they were up to.

The takedown at Facebook and its image-centric social network Instagram was described as part of an ongoing battle against "coordinated inauthentic behavior" which has blocked numerous fake accounts from around the world.

"We found two separate, unconnected operations that originated in Russia and used similar tactics, creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing," Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a blog post.

He added that the takedowns were based on the deceptive behavior of those behind accounts, and not the content posted.

Ukraine was the focus of 97 Facebook accounts, pages, or groups removed from the social network, according to Gleicher.

Fake accounts were used to operate pages and groups, spread their content and ramp up engagement, as well as to get people to visit an outside website.

Posts by the account typically involved local and political news; topics including military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, civil war in Syria, and Russian politics.

Facebook did not disclose identities of those behind the accounts.

Pages involved had about 34,000 followers each, and about 86,000 Facebook users had joined at least one of the groups. Only a single dollar was spent on a Facebook ad, which ran more than a year ago.

"We identified some of these accounts and Pages through follow-on investigations of the accounts and Pages we removed earlier this year ahead of the elections in Ukraine," Gleicher said.

"We have shared information about our analysis with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners."

An additional 21 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages removed focused on Austria, the Baltic states, Germany, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, according to the California-based internet titan.

Those accounts posted content related to political issues such as immigration, as well as religion and NATO, Facebook said.

The campaign used fake accounts, impersonating other users, and amplified "allegations about a public figure working on behalf of intelligence services," Gleicher said.