Facebook Removes Russian Instagram Accounts It Says Meddled in Elections

Facebook said on Monday it deleted a number Instagram accounts operated from Russia that targeted Americans with divisive political messages ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election, The Guardian reports

The world’s biggest social network said it was “continuing to ramp up its efforts to protect elections in America and abroad from foreign meddling on social media.”

Four separate networks of interconnected accounts, groups and pages engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” across Facebook and Instagram were removed, the company said. This included nearly 200 accounts with more than 250,000 followers around the world.

According to Facebook, the account networks intentionally spread divisive content aimed at the United States, Latin America, and parts of North Africa. Facebook said three of the networks originated in Iran, while the other was based in Russia.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the four networks were discovered as a part of the company’s efforts to police organized campaigns launched by fake accounts.

“We detected this activity as part of our ongoing review of suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of U.S. elections,” Gleicher wrote in a blog post. “We’ve shared information with our industry partners, policy makers and law enforcement and will continue working with others to find and remove this behavior.”

“The people behind this operation often posted on both sides of political issues including topics like U.S. elections, environmental issues, racial tensions, LGBTQ issues, political candidates, confederate ideas, conservatism and liberalism,” Gleicher said of the Russia-based accounts. “They also maintained accounts presenting themselves as local in some swing states, and posed as either conservatives or progressives.”