Facebook Fired Another Shot at Russia’s Internet Research Agency

Accounts, pages and Instagram accounts were removed regardless of content

Posts from IRA-backed Facebook pages Facebook
Headshot of David Cohen

Russia’s Internet Research Agency has not been completely eliminated on Facebook, but the social network announced some progress in its efforts against the entity that sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos revealed in a Newsroom post that the social network removed 70 accounts, 138 pages and 65 Instagram accounts that were controlled by the IRA.

Roughly 1.08 million people followed at least one of the pages, and about 493,000 followed at least one of the Instagram accounts.

According to Stamos, 95 percent of the pages that had content were in Russian and aimed at people living in that country or Russian speakers around the world, including in neighboring countries such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

The social network shared examples of Facebook posts and ads and Instagram posts from the affected accounts:

Facebook Ira Take Down Sample of 20 Facebook Ads by David Cohen on Scribd

Facebook Ira Take Down Sample of 20 Facebook Posts by David Cohen on Scribd

FacebookIRATakedownSampleOf20InstagramPosts by David Cohen on Scribd

Facebook announced last November that it was creating a portal to enable users to discover if they had liked or followed any IRA-backed Facebook pages or Instagram accounts between January 2015 and August 2017, and Stamos said the tool will be updated “in the next few weeks” to include the accounts and pages that were just removed.

Stamos explained why these accounts and pages were removed after “months of work by our team,” writing, “The IRA has repeatedly used complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people who use Facebook, including before, during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. It’s why we don’t want them on Facebook. We removed this latest set of pages and accounts solely because they were controlled by the IRA—not based on the content. This included commentary on domestic and international political issues, the promotion of Russian culture and tourism, as well as debate on more everyday issues. Given the interest in the IRA, we’re releasing a sample of the page posts and ads.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg weighed in, as well, posting, “Most of our actions against the IRA to date have been to prevent them from interfering in foreign elections. This update is about taking down their pages targeting people living in Russia. This Russian agency has repeatedly acted deceptively and tried to manipulate people in the U.S., Europe, and Russia—and we don’t want them on Facebook anywhere in the world.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.