Facebook blocks 115 accounts ahead of US midterm elections

The Associated Press
Tuesday November 06, 2018
Written by The Associated Press
LONDON — Facebook said it blocked 115 accounts for suspected “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” linked to foreign groups attempting to interfere in Tuesday's U.S. midterm elections.

The social media company shut down 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts and is investigating them in more detail, it said in a blog post late Monday.

The company took action after being tipped off Sunday evening by U.S. law enforcement officials, who notified the company about recently discovered online activity, “which they believe may be linked to foreign entities,” Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote in the post .

U.S. tech companies are stepping up security and efforts to fight disinformation campaigns to prevent online troublemakers from trying to divide voters and discredit democracy. Facebook's purge is part of countermeasures to prevent abuses like those used by Russian groups two years ago to sway public opinion ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Gleicher said the company will provide an update once it learns more, “including whether these accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities.”

Almost all of the Facebook Pages associated with the blocked accounts appeared to be in French or Russian. The Instagram accounts were mostly in English and were focused either on celebrities or political debate. No further details were given about the accounts or suspicious activity.

Last month, Facebook removed 82 pages, accounts and groups tied to Iran aimed at stirring up social strife in the U.S. and the U.K. It carried out an even broader sweep in August, removing 652 pages, groups and accounts linked to Russia and Iran. Twitter says it has identified more than 4,600 accounts and 10 million tweets, mostly affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, that it says were linked to foreign meddling in U.S. elections, including the presidential vote of 2016.

The Internet Research Agency is essentially a Russian troll farm that has been indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller for its actions during the 2016 election.

— Kelvin Chan

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2018

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