Facebook said today it has removed dozens of Facebook and Instagram accounts owned by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the infamous Russian group that is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The company says it also shuttered 138 Internet Research Agency-owned Facebook pages, many of which were running ads.
In a blog post by Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos–who is rumored to be leaving the company in the wake of Facebook’s numerous recent election-related privacy scandals–Facebook says uncovering the Internet Research Agency-owned accounts and pages, most of which were in Russian and targeted at Russian speakers, took “months of work,” but he didn’t elaborate on why it took so long after the agency’s exploitation of the platforms was made public. Stamos added that it closed the accounts and pages because of concerns about “authenticity.”
Facebook acknowledged the larger extent of Russia’s effort on Instagram after questions by Fast Company last year, but even then, the posts continued to spread across the platform, and the company has said it was unable to fully estimate the reach of the Kremlin-backed campaign prior to the 2016 election.
In his own post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg linked the IRA to attempts to interfere in other countries’ elections, and said that the closing of the accounts and pages came after Facebook identified “a large network the IRA is using to manipulate people in Russia itself.”
“The IRA has repeatedly used complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people who use Facebook,” Stamos wrote, “including before, during, and after the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. It’s why we don’t want them on Facebook.”
He also wrote that the decision was made based on the IRA’s ownership of the accounts and pages, and not because of any specific content.