Facebook and Twitter said Thursday that they removed several hundred fake accounts linked to Russian military intelligence and other Kremlin-backed actors involved in previous attempts to interfere in U.S. politics, including the 2016 presidential election.
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook’s security policy, said in a blog post that the operations did not focus on the United States, gained few followers, and did not directly target the 2020 presidential election. But he warned that “They are linked to actors associated with election interference in the United States in the past,” including the leak of e-mail hacked by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign four years ago.
Such “hack-and-leak” operations are “one of the threats we are particularly focused on and worry about ahead of the November US elections,” Gleicher wrote. US intelligence officials have warned that Russia is trying to spread disinformation that would undermine former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign.
Facebook said it removed three separate networks of accounts linked to Russian intelligence and people associated with the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm that was indicted for 2016 election interference.
Much of the networks’ activity has focused on creating “fictional characters”, including posing as journalists or editors, and driving traffic to the websites they have created that are presumed to be independent media outlets or think tanks. said Facebook.
Earlier this month, both social media companies shut down a separate network of accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, which created a site that billed itself as an independent news outlet and recruited “unwitting freelance journalists” to write. articles for it.
The largest network of the latest removal, which included 301 groups, pages, and accounts, was linked to Russian military intelligence services, Facebook said. US prosecutors accused military intelligence of being behind Russia’s election interference in 2016.
This network mainly focused on the “Far East, Russia’s neighboring countries and Syria” and published current news and events “, including the Syrian civil war, Turkish domestic politics, geopolitical issues in the Asia-Pacific region, the NATO, the war in Ukraine, and politics in the Baltics, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and the United States. ” Facebook said the network “had hardly any following” when it was removed.
A second smaller network was also linked to Russian intelligence and involved 37 accounts and pages, mainly focusing on Belarus and other neighboring countries.
Facebook said the third network, of just 10 accounts, pages and groups, was connected to the Internet Research Agency. He focused primarily on Turkey, Europe and the United States, posting links to articles on an external website he controlled called United World International.
Twitter claimed to have removed two account networks that it attributed to state-related entities in Russia. One involved around 345 largely inactive accounts that Twitter said were linked to previous Russian hacking attempts. A second batch of around 10 accounts promoted the same United World International website that Facebook said is linked to the Internet Research Agency.
The FBI has warned companies of the operation linked to the Internet Research Agency.
Editor’s Note: Facebook is among the financial supporters of NPR.