It looks like the Russian trolls weren’t done with the 2016 presidential election. According to Facebook, fake Russian-linked Instagram accounts used public figures like Trump and Kanye West and hot-button topics surrounding race and gender issues to target voters in the midterm elections.
Facebook reports that they removed 36 accounts, 6 pages, and 99 Instagram accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” after a tip from the FBI. More than 1 million people, with 600,000 reportedly located in the US, followed at least one of the Instagram accounts.
“Over the last year, we have been much more proactive in finding and removing inauthentic behavior, including from foreign actors. To stay ahead, we need to work closely with the government, the security community, and other tech companies. Last week’s takedowns were a good example of that work in action,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.
“On November 4, the FBI tipped us off about online activity that they believed was linked to foreign entities. Based on this tip, we quickly identified a set of accounts that appeared to be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is banned on Facebook because we want people to be able to trust the connections they make on our services,” the social media platform detailed. “So we immediately blocked these accounts, and given the timing just before the US midterm elections, publicly announced what we found and the action we were taking. We also shared that information with the government and other companies to help them with their own investigations.”
Russia’s Internet Research Agency is believed to be responsible for all of this. This is the same group that “tried to sway the 2016 presidential election by spreading politically divisive messages,” USA Today reports.
“Ultimately, this effort may have been connected to the IRA, but we aren’t best placed to say definitively whether that is the case. As multiple independent experts have pointed out, trolls have an incentive to claim that their activities are more widespread and influential than may be the case. That appears to be true here as well,” Facebook wrote.
“What’s clear is that as we improve, our opponents will change their tactics and improve, too. They are smart, well-funded and have every incentive to continue their efforts, even if some of their actions have very little impact. To stay ahead of this misuse, we need to continue to invest heavily in security, as well as our work with governments and other technology companies. It will take the combined efforts of the public and private sectors to prevent foreign interference in elections.”