Facebook has removed hundreds of Russia-linked pages that engaged in co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Facebook shuts hundreds of Russia-linked pages, accounts

LONDON — Facebook said Thursday it removed hundreds of Russia-linked pages, groups and accounts that it says were part of two big disinformation operations, in its latest effort to fight fake news.

The social media company said it took action after finding two networks “that engaged in co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” on its Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a blog post that one network operated in countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The other focused on Ukraine.

The people running the accounts represented themselves as independent news sources and posted on topics like anti-NATO sentiment and protest movements.

“We didn’t find any links between these operations, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Gleicher said.

Gleicher said one network of 364 pages and accounts was linked to employees of Sputnik, a Russian state-run English-language news site. About 790,000 accounts followed one or more of the network’s pages. The operation spent about $135,000 over six years for Facebook advertisements, which it paid for in euros, rubles and dollars. The most recent ad ran in January.

Sputnik criticized Facebook’s takedown.

“The decision is clearly political. This is tantamount to censorship,” it said in a statement to the AP, adding that Facebook blocked the accounts of seven of its bureaus in former Soviet republics. “Sputnik editorial offices deal with news and they do it well. If this blocking is Facebook’s only reaction to the quality of the media’s work, then we have no questions, everything is clear here. But there is still hope that common sense will prevail.”

Acting on a tip from U.S. law enforcement, Facebook shut another 148 pages, groups and accounts, including 41 on Instagram, that were part of a second network that spent $25,000 on ads in 2018, paid for in rubles. Gleicher said Facebook “identified some technical overlap with Russia-based activity we saw prior to the U.S. midterm elections, including behaviour that shared characteristics with previous Internet Research Agency activity.”

The Internet Research Agency is a Russian troll farm indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller for its actions aimed at influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The disclosure is the latest in a series of fake account purges in recent months. Facebook has been stepping up its scrutiny after being criticized for its slow response to foreign attempts to influence the 2016 vote.

In another measure aimed at increasing transparency, Facebook last year started requiring all political ads taken out in the U.S., Britain and Brazil to disclose who paid for them.

By The Associated Press

Just Posted

Woman killed in collision west of Rocky Mountain House

A 42-year-old woman is dead after a two-vehicle collision in Clearwater County… Continue reading

Rough camper “tree house” found hidden in Red Deer woods

“This took a bit of work,” says man who discovered it

Central Alberta has one less peacekeeper with death of Nobel Prize-winning vet

The late Wayne Coubrough and Wayne Bevis helped diffuse tensions in the Middle East

TC Energy applauds Nebraska court victory over opponents of Keystone XL pipeline

CALGARY — One of the last major hurdles for the Keystone XL… Continue reading

Tribunal rules Edmonton pharmacist harmed integrity of profession

EDMONTON — An Edmonton pharmacist has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct… Continue reading

WATCH: Trailer stolen from Red Deer deli

A Red Deer business has contacted police after a trailer was stolen… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Thursday The Red Deer and District Garden Club hosts its annual Flower… Continue reading

Alberta loses extra-innings thriller at men’s baseball nationals

Alberta came up just short in their second game at the Baseball… Continue reading

G7 leaders should step up own climate plans to help the Amazon, Greenpeace says

OTTAWA — Some Canadian environment groups are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau… Continue reading

Third-party buys billboard to promote Bernier’s anti-mass immigration stance

OTTAWA — Billboards with Maxime Bernier’s face and a slogan advocating against… Continue reading

Ottawa ready to pass law forcing CN to restore rusting Quebec Bridge

Ottawa says its ready to take ownership of the aging Quebec Bridge… Continue reading

TC Energy applauds Nebraska court victory over opponents of Keystone XL pipeline

CALGARY — One of the last major hurdles for the Keystone XL… Continue reading

‘Our bigger enemy’: Trump escalates attack on Fed chief

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump launched a furious and highly personal attack… Continue reading

Ontario shipyard accuses feds of unfairly stacking deck in Davie’s favour

OTTAWA — An Ontario shipyard is accusing the federal government of trying… Continue reading

Most Read