Facebook Takes Down Russian, Iranian Accounts Attempting to Meddle in 2020 Elections

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Facebook announced Monday that it has removed four networks of accounts that originated in Russia and Iran and were attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections.

The mammoth social-media platform took down 135 Facebook accounts, 26 pages, and seven Instagram accounts originating in Iran, some targeting the U.S. and some targeting countries in Latin America and North Africa, as well as one Facebook account and 50 Instagram accounts originating in Russia and targeting the U.S.

The accounts engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and were removed for their behavior rather than the content they posted, Facebook said in a statement.

“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action,” the statement said, adding that as part of its “ongoing proactive work ahead of the US elections,” Facebook had shared the results of its internal investigation with law-enforcement and industry partners.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters Monday that the company is “in a much better place in dealing with this” than in previous years.

“This isn’t an area where we can take our eye off the ball, or where you ever fully solve the problem,” Zuckerberg told reporters. “You refer to this as an arms race. I think that is probably the right analogy — we’re getting better, they’re getting better, I think right now we’re doing quite well. But this is certainly an area that we all need to be focused on.”

Facebook came under fire from critics who charged it with negligence during the last presidential-election cycle, when it allowed Russian actors, among others, to spread misinformation and attempt to sow discord on the site. The company ramped up efforts to combat election meddling during the 2018 midterm elections, but some bad actors have continued to slip through the cracks.

In August, Facebook said it had removed several accounts apparently run by the Chinese government as part of an effort to confuse and disrupt pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

“We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge,” Facebook said Monday. “We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead.”

The company pledged to continue to advance its technology, hire more employees, and work with law-enforcement and security experts ahead of the upcoming elections.

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