Facebook deletes Russia-linked pages, accounts and groups

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : The social networking giant, Facebook has removed hundreds of Russia-linked pages, groups and accounts. The company says that the pages were part of two big disinformation operations targeting users outside the US.

Facebook said its effort to fight misinformation came after it found two networks that engaged in coordinated unethical behavior on the social media network and in the Instagram service. 

In a blogpost, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher said one network operated in countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The other focused on Ukraine.

“We didn’t find any links between these operations, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Gleicher said.

 Facebook’s clearance is part of countermeasures to prevent abuses like those used by Russian groups two years ago to sway public opinion ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Though much of the attention has been on Russian-linked campaigns in the U.S., Facebook has identified and blocked such tactics around the world. The Menlo Park, California, company has been revealing such flush out regularly in recent months, as its systems get better at detecting and removing malicious accounts. But those behind the campaigns are sharpening their attacks, too.

According to Facebook, the people running the accounts represented themselves as independent news sources and posted on topics like anti-NATO sentiment and protest movements.

Gleicher said one network of 364 pages and accounts was linked to employees of Sputnik, a Russian state-run English-language news site. About 790,000 accounts followed one or more of the network’s pages. The operation spent about $135,000 over six years for Facebook advertisements, which it paid for in euros, rubles and dollars. The most recent ad ran in January.

 “The decision is clearly political. This is tantamount to censorship,” Sputnik said in a statement to The Associated Press, adding that Facebook blocked the accounts of seven of its bureaus in former Soviet republics. “Sputnik editorial offices deal with news and they do it well. If this blocking is Facebook’s only reaction to the quality of the media’s work, then we have no questions, everything is clear here. But there is still hope that common sense will prevail.”