Facebook takes down fake accounts over Russian troll farm concerns

Facebook says it removed more than 100 accounts this week from the main service as well as its subsidiary In...

Posted: Nov 7, 2018 5:09 PM
Updated: Nov 7, 2018 5:09 PM

Facebook says it removed more than 100 accounts this week from the main service as well as its subsidiary Instagram over concerns they may be connected to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) -- the same troll operation targeted by special counsel Robert Mueller in his sprawling Russia investigation.

The social media giant acknowledged Tuesday that it removed the pages following a tip from the FBI.

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"We blocked over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is banned from our services," says Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cyber security policy, on Tuesday.

The company did not disclose details of the pages it removed.

Earlier on Tuesday, a website claiming to be run by the IRA took responsibility for a network of fake social media accounts, many targeting American voters -- an operation similar to what the group orchestrated in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections.

A message on the website read: "Citizens of the United States of America! Your intelligence agencies are powerless. Despite all their efforts, we have thousands of accounts registered on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit spreading political propaganda."

The claims were published on Tuesday night as votes in the midterm elections were being counted. CNN has not independently confirmed who controls the pages.

If the pages were run by the IRA, it would represent its most brazen effort since the 2016 presidential election, and a thumb in the eye of American authorities that have tried to undo the power of Russian online disinformation since the last major election.

The group is under indictment by Mueller, whose investigation of the 2016 election has touched the Trump campaign as well as Russians.

Gleicher added: "This evening a website claiming to be associated with the IRA published a list of Instagram accounts they claim to have created. We had already blocked most of these accounts yesterday, and have now blocked the rest. This is a timely reminder that these bad actors won't give up — and why it's so important we work with the US government and other technology companies to stay ahead."

The FBI declined comment.

The accounts CNN reviewed were posted by the group included some pages that were designed to look like they were run by Trump supporters, while other pages targeted African Americans.

Senator Mark Warner, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was briefed on the accounts by Facebook, according to his spokesperson. Warner said in a statement provided to CNN on Wednesday, "This shows that Russian influence agents will continue to target the American people and our democratic process. It happened in 2016. We've seen activity in 2018, and I'm confident they will not stop as 2020 remains around the corner."

A DHS official Tuesday said there were "no reported cybersecurity events that would affect the ability to cast and count votes."

On Monday, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray released a joint statement that while there was no indication that America's voting infrastructure -- voting machines, for example -- had been compromised, foreign operatives were seeking to influence American voters.

"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 statement read. "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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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