Facebook shuts more accounts aimed at political meddling

Russian trolls reached hundreds of thousands of U.S. Instagram users on eve of midterm elections

On November 5 - the eve of the contentious midterm elections that saw Democrats take control of the House of Representatives - Facebook announced it had been informed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about "online activity that they belied was linked to foreign entities", and subsequently took down dozens of accounts and pages.

The accounts posted content related to various social issues in the US using hashtags such as #DonaldTrump, #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, #GayPride, #Feminism and #BlackPride.

Facebook on Tuesday published a report with details about the more than 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts it blocked last week for engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" believed to be an attempt to sow political discontent ahead of the midterm elections. "About 60 followers were located in the USA", said Facebook.

Facebook said that just before the midterms, it removed 36 Facebook accounts, six pages and 99 Instagram accounts that may have been connected to a Russian troll farm.

Meanwhile, the Facebook pages had attracted a total of approximately 65,000 followers in total, with posts mainly in French. In addition, they explored the possible link to Russian Federation. Facebook said it had already pulled a lot of them down and had blocked the rest on the list.

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The takedowns are illustrative of the ongoing struggle Facebook faces to protect its platform from covert political influence campaigns - with everyone from Iran-linked operatives to political activists at home in the U.S. attempting to game the system in recent months, according to Facebook's past announcements.

The social networking giant on Wednesday shared samples of 7 different accounts charged under "inauthentic behavior". These fake accounts created from another half of the world were involved in posting stuff about the hot topics of today. About $4,500 in ad spending came from those pages, though none of the ads ran in the USA, the company said. "We had already blocked majority, and based on our internal investigation, we blocked the rest", Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher wrote in Tuesday's blog post.

The social network said it's relying on some of its partners. It's been working with law enforcement, cybersecurity researchers and other tech companies to combat election meddling.

"To stay ahead of this misuse, we need to continue to invest heavily in security, as well as our work with governments and other technology companies", Gleicher said.

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