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Facebook shares some yanked posts that may be linked to Russian trolls

Fake accounts posted about LGBT pride, women's rights and black communities.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
Queenie Wong
3 min read
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Were you duped by Facebook posts that may be tied to Russia trolls?

Earlier this month, ahead of the US midterm elections, Facebook said it had pulled down more than 100 accounts that may be linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency. 

On Tuesday, the world's largest social network shared a sample of seven posts from the accounts it yanked for "inauthentic behavior." Some of the fake accounts posted about LGBT pride, women's rights or black communities. 


Facebook said it pulled down this post for "inauthentic" activity.


In total, Facebook said it removed 36 Facebook accounts, six pages and 99 Instagram accounts the company thinks may be linked to foreign entities. About 1.25 million people followed at least one of the Instagram accounts, and more than 600,000 of those followers were in the US.

Since the 2016 US presidential election, social networks including Facebook have been under pressure to do more to combat election meddling, including interference from Russia. This year, Facebook released to US lawmakers more than 3,000 ads linked to Russian trolls. 

The company also set up an election "war room" to spot foreign interference, but that hasn't stopped bad actors from creating a network of fake accounts in what appears to be a continuing attempt to sow discord and spread disinformation. On Nov. 4, the FBI alerted Facebook about more fake accounts. A website that claimed it was run by Russia's IRA had published a list of Instagram accounts it said it ran. Facebook said it had already pulled most of them down and had blocked the rest on the list.


Some of the fake accounts posted about women's rights.


"Ultimately, this effort may have been connected to the IRA, but we aren't best placed to say definitively whether that is the case. As multiple independent experts have pointed out, trolls have an incentive to claim that their activities are more widespread and influential than may be the case," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cyber security policy, said in a blog post. 

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, which analyzed some of the posts Facebook took down before the midterm election, said in a blog post that the behavior of the removed accounts "closely resembled that of earlier Russian operatives" and some of the content was even more divisive than before. 

But this time, the bad actors focused on another strategy: posting about celebrities including comedian John Oliver, actress Jennifer Lawrence and musician Kid Rock.

"This appears likely to have been an attempt to build audience appeal, while allowing the flexibility to switch from one hot political topic to another," the analysis said. 

Facebook said the pages it removed ahead of the election spent $4,500 on ads but that none of those ads ran in the United States. The company also hasn't found any fake Facebook events.

The social network said it's relying on some of its partners. It's been working with law enforcement, cybersecurity researchers and other tech companies to combat election meddling.

"To stay ahead of this misuse, we need to continue to invest heavily in security, as well as our work with governments and other technology companies," Gleicher said. "It will take the combined efforts of the public and private sectors to prevent foreign interference in elections."

First published Nov. 13, 11:31 a.m. PT
Correction, 12:24 p.m.: Facebook said it got a date wrong; it was contacted by the FBI on Nov. 4.
Update, 12:30 p.m.: Includes analysis from the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.

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