Facebook removes accounts linked to Russian intelligence groups

SAN FRANCISCO  – Facebook Inc. has removed three separate online operations run by foreign governments or foreign actors for trying to hide their true identity and mislead users on the social network.

The social-media company said it removed dozens of Facebook and Instagram accounts, Pages, and groups from Russia, Iran, Vietnam and Myanmar for “foreign or government interference”, meaning the networks were trying to “manipulate public debate in another country”.

The largest of the campaigns originated in Russia, and used accounts masquerading as locals to try to influence users in Ukraine by sharing posts about local and political news, Facebook said. The company was able to link the accounts to “Russian military intelligence services”, according to a blog post.

Another, smaller campaign originated in Iran and targeted American users, posting about US politics. The entire network included just 11 Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The last campaign originated in Myanmar and Vietnam, and targeted users in Myanmar. It included 13 accounts, and 10 Pages, though more than 265,000 people followed at least one of the Pages in the network, Facebook said.

Takedowns like this have become somewhat routine for Facebook, which has made a concerted effort to combat fake accounts and profiles since the 2016 US presidential election.

In the past year, Facebook has removed similar networks of accounts, which it calls “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”, that originated in more than a dozen countries, including Russia, China, Iran, Spain and the United States.

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