SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook is expanding its response to what it sees as malicious actors using the platform improperly and on Tuesday said it had deleted hundreds of Russian accounts and pages associated with a “troll factory” indicted by U.S. prosecutors for fake activist and political posts in the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
Facebook said many of the deleted articles and pages came from Russia-based Federal News Agency, known as FAN, and that the social media company’s security team had concluded that the agency was technologically and structurally intertwined with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency.
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told Reuters that the agency “has repeatedly acted to deceive people and manipulate people around the world, and we don’t want them on Facebook anywhere.”
The world’s largest social media company is under pressure to improve its handling of data after disclosing that information about 50 million Facebook users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
The removal of accounts and pages are mainly in Russian. Many had little political import. Previously the company had only taken down fake accounts and accounts spreading fake news.
The new policy will include otherwise legitimate content spread by those same actors, Zuckerberg said.
“It is clear from the evidence that we’ve collected that those organizations are controlled and operated by” the Internet Research Agency, he added.
In February, the agency along with two other firms and 13 Russians, was indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges it oversaw a criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper in the presidential campaign to support then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and disparage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.