Facebook Has Blocked Dozens of Accounts Possibly Linked to Foreign Entities

Russian and French pages focused on celebrities and politics

Employees work in Facebook's 'War Room,' during a media demonstration. Getty Images
Headshot of Marty Swant

On the eve of the U.S. midterm elections, Facebook said it has blocked dozens of accounts that might be engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

In a blog post published on Monday night, the company said its “very early stage investigation” has identified about 30 suspicious accounts on Facebook and 85 on Instagram after receiving a tip from U.S. law enforcement on Sunday night. According to Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, officials contacted the company after finding online activity possibly linked to foreign entities.

“Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly,” Gleicher wrote. “But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the U.S., we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today.”

According to the social network, Facebook pages associated with the accounts appeared in French or Russian while accounts on Instagram were mostly in English, with topics focused on celebrities and political debate. The company said there’s not yet proof of whether the accounts were linked to Russian Internet Research Agency like previous investigations had found.

The revelation is just the latest batch of accounts that Facebook has identified, removed and disclosed in recent months. Late last month, it published a report detailing how 82 pages linked to Iran targeted users in the U.S. and United Kingdom, and in August the company said it removed hundreds of accounts whose pages had been followed by more than 1 million users.

The past two years have been rough for Facebook as it’s uncovered thousands of ads linked to “bad actors” attempting to spread misinformation campaigns in the U.S. and other countries.

In a separate blog post published on Monday, Facebook said an independent assessment by the nonprofit BSR found that the company has not done enough to prevent human rights abuses in Myanmar, where the United Nations has accused the country’s military of using Facebook to incite violence against minorities.

According to BSR’s report, Facebook should adopt a standalone human rights policy while also creating new structures to oversee its human rights strategy and updates.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.