Facebook said it removed more than 350 pages and accounts linked to operations in Russia Thursday, on the grounds that the account holders “activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves.”
Since discovering Russian operatives used Facebook to spread misinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook has taken down hundreds of accounts for this “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
The most recent sweep removed pages that primarily targeted areas of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They appeared as news organizations or general interest pages dedicated to topics like weather, travel, sports, economics, or politicians, but some frequently posted about anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption.
“While we are making progress rooting out this abuse, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded,” wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, in a blog post announcing the account removals.
“Our security efforts are ongoing to help us stay a step ahead and uncover this kind of abuse, particularly in light of important political moments and elections in Europe this year,” he added.
Facebook said around 790,000 accounts followed one or more of these fraudulent pages, which were all linked to employees of Sputnik, a Moscow news company owned by the Kremlin’s news agency. Since October 2013, these pages have spent roughly $135,000 in Facebook ads, paid for in euros, rubles, and U.S. dollars.
In a separate investigation spurred by a tip from U.S. law enforcement, Facebook removed 107 pages, groups, and accounts, plus 41 Instagram accounts, that were engaging in similar behavior based in Russia and targeting Ukraine.