Facebook says Russia may have been behind a fresh plot to contaminate US democracy during the midterms

Facebook pulled down 115 Instagram and Facebook accounts this week over fears they were meddling in the midterms. Now, Facebook has said the accounts may be linked to Russia’s notorious troll farm.

In a statement sent to Business Insider, and first reported by TechCrunch, the company said it removed the 85 Instagram accounts and 30 Facebook profiles because of suspected ties to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA).

Although Facebook was not categorical in drawing a link between the meddling and the IRA, it pointed to the fact that a website connected to the troll farm published a list of Instagram accounts they claim to have created.

Read more: Facebook built an election ‘war room’ to try to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016 — here’s what it’s like inside

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said (emphasis ours):

“Last night, following a tip-off from law enforcement, we blocked over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is banned from our services.

“This evening a website claiming to be associated with the IRA published a list of Instagram accounts they claim to have created. We had already blocked most of these accounts yesterday, and have now blocked the rest.

“This is a timely reminder that these bad actors won’t give up — and why it’s so important we work with the US government and other technology companies to stay ahead.”

It is not the first time this year that Facebook has pulled down accounts over fears they were linked to the IRA. The social network announced in July it had banned 32 pages and accounts that were engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” At the time, the firm said the accounts behaved in a similar way to the IRA and had “connected with known IRA accounts.”

Facebook has been much more vigilant and transparent about suspected meddling than it was during the 2016 presidential election, when Russian operatives created fake Facebook accounts that pushed both right- and left-wing narratives in an attempt to sow political division. Facebook even set up a “war room” to monitor its billions of users in an attempt to weed out inauthentic behaviour.

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