Facebook Blocked Dozens Of Alleged Russian Trolls On Eve Of Midterm Election

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10:  Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong

Facebook banned what appeared to be a Kremlin-backed group of online trolls operating on its network in the hours before yesterday’s election, the social network said.

Acting on a tip from law enforcement, the company said that it identified and removed around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts after an initial investigation.

Facebook said that while most of Instagram accounts were operating in English – “some were focused on celebrities, others political debate” – the Facebook pages were most in either French or Russian.

In a press conference Wednesday after the election, Trump said that the government would prepare a “full report” on Russian and Chinese influence operations during the election.

The accounts were blocked one day before the election itself “due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency,” the New York Times quoted Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, as saying.

Russians associated with the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based entity, were charged earlier this year in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe for their alleged involvement in a Russian government-backed social media influence campaign during the 2016 election,

“But Americans should be aware that foreign actors—and Russia in particular—continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord,” the FBI said in a statement before the election. “They can do this by spreading false information about political processes and candidates, lying about their own interference activities, disseminating propaganda on social media, and through other tactics.”

Facebook did not disclose what kind of posts the accounts in question were spreading, and what candidates they were supporting.

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