Facebook has removed 135 accounts and 138 pages linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company with alleged ties to Russian intelligence services.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Facebook said it had removed the accounts “solely because they were controlled by the IRA – not based on the content”.
“The IRA has repeatedly used complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people who use Facebook, including before, during and after the 2016 US presidential elections. It’s why we don’t want them on Facebook,” Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said in a statement.
The company said almost all of the 70 Facebook and 65 Instagram accounts that were found during an investigation that took several months, targeted Russian-speaking audiences, mostly in neighbouring countries like Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
“The IRA has consistently used inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people. It’s why we remove every account we find that is linked to the organisation – whether linked to activity in the US, Russia or elsewhere,” Facebook’s statement read.
The IRA accounts also bought ads on the social media in an attempt to increase the reach of the message, which ranged from international politics to promoting Russian culture and tourism.
Facebook said it would soon offer an option for users to check if they interacted with the removed pages at any point in time.
In February, Mueller’s investigation indicted 13 Russian nationals who were involved with IRA.
According to court documents, they “sought, in part, to conduct what it called ‘information warfare against the United States of America’ through fictitious US personas on social media platforms and other internet-based media”.
The move by Facebook comes at a time the company is experiencing criticism because of its alleged mishandling of private information.
In an interview with Reuters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is working on ways to improve the privacy of all of its more than a billion users.
The company will pay close attention a new law that will go affect next month in the European Union.
That law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), aims to improve online privacy of EU citizens and giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them.
It also includes users’ right to have their data deleted.
Zuckerberg said Facebook will take the law as an example to improve data privacy for people all over the world.
However, Zuckerberg also said it would only take parts of that law, not implementing all of the far-reaching EU data protection measures for everyone.
Facebook, for whom selling information about its users for advertisements is its core business, has faced a lot of criticism in the last two years over its alleged role in the US elections and the mass killing of Rohingya in Myanmar.
In March, a whistle-blower that worked for the company Cambridge Analytica said user data of 50 million Facebook accounts was used in an attempt to influence their political stance, including
Since then, Facebook has been trying to implement several small measures to increase user privacy.