Facebook on Tuesday said it had removed 32 pages and accounts from the social media network and Instagram, because they were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” and may have been created as an attempt to disrupt the upcoming midterm elections in the United States.
Facebook said the creators of these pages and accounts had gone to greater lengths to hide their identities than an alleged Russia-based campaign to sabotage the 2016 United States elections. “Some of the activity is consistent with what we saw from the Internet Research Agency before and after the 2016 elections,” Facebook said. “And we’ve found evidence of some connections between these accounts and IRA accounts we disabled last year.”
US prosecutors have accused the Internet Research Agency, a company based in St Petersburg, of being the hub of the campaign to push Russian propaganda and disinformation into the US political discourse ahead of the 2016 elections.
Facebook said that though it does not yet have all the facts, there is a connection between the “bad actors” who created the pages and accounts, and some protests planned in Washington DC next week as well as a campaign to end the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Facebook said the sophisticated attempts made to hide identities this time might be the result of its improved security policies. But it added: “We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics. It’s an arms race and we need to constantly improve too.”
The social media network said that it had identified the first of eight fake pages, 17 profiles on Facebook and seven on Instagram two weeks ago. “We removed all of them this morning once we’d completed our initial investigation and shared the information with US law enforcement agencies, Congress and other technology companies,” Facebook said.
Over 2,90,000 accounts followed at least one of these pages, and the most followed Facebook pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” and “Resisters”, Facebook said. The remaining pages had zero to 10 followers, and the Instagram profiles had none.
These pages ran about 150 advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, created over 9,500 posts and 30 events.