Facebook closes 365 pages, accounts associated with Sputnik

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Source: Facebook

Facebook announced on Thursday that it has removed several hundred pages and accounts from its social media network that were "engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour", as the company puts it. There were two coordinated operations ongoing that the pages and accounts belong to, one of them aimed at influencing public opinion in Estonia, among other countries.

In its press update, the company said that both of the operations it identified originated in Russia. While one of the two seemed to be concentrated exclusively on Ukraine, the other covered several countries.

"Today we removed 364 Facebook pages and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a network that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern European countries," Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher wrote.

The page administrators and account owners had primarily represented themselves as independent news or general interest pages, covering topics like the weather, travel, sports, business, or politicians in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, Mr Gleicher said.

"Despite their misrepresentations of their identities, we found that these pages and accounts were linked to employees of Sputnik," he added. Sputnik is a state-controlled Russian news agency.

According to Gleicher, the pages in question regularly posted about anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements and supposed corruption in the affected countries.

Facebook stresses that they are continuing their efforts to "root out this abuse," but that the process is difficult as the people responsible are "determined and well funded." Mr Gleicher also added that they had managed to identify the accounts in cooperation with local security authorities and private media.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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