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Russian Trolls Were at It Again Before Midterms, Facebook Says

Russian Trolls Were at It Again Before Midterms, Facebook Says


Facebook took down the accounts on Monday, a day before it provided more details. The Facebook accounts were largely communicating in French and Russian, while the Instagram accounts were aimed at an English-language audience, Mr. Gleicher said in a blog post.

The company has spent the past 18 months grappling with the scope of its disinformation problem, and it has spent millions on additional resources and employees to deal with it. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has compared the effort to an “arms race” between company security teams and groups trying to spread disinformation.

As far back as 2013, the Internet Research Agency has been linked to influence campaigns on social media. Based in St. Petersburg, Russia, the agency served as a kind of professional online trolling network, carrying out information operations intended to sway public opinion among the groups it targets.

The group, which has been linked to the Kremlin, specializes in pumping out legions of Twitter bots, YouTube videos and Facebook posts under the guise of activism, often posing as both far-right and left-wing groups.

In 2014, the troll farm began targeting candidates in the United States presidential race, according to a February indictment naming 13 Russians linked to the agency. More than 126 million Americans were exposed to Russia-linked content through Facebook alone, the company said last year. The Internet Research Agency also uploaded more than 1,000 videos to YouTube and posted more than 131,000 Twitter messages.

Last month, the Justice Department announced it had uncovered another attempt by Russian state-backed actors to meddle in the midterm elections.

The criminal complaint charged Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, a Russian citizen, with managing a multimillion-dollar budget to “sow division and discord” in the United States ahead of Tuesday’s voting. Ms. Alekseevna’s budget allowed her to buy websites, as well as Facebook and Instagram ads aimed at spreading divisive content.



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