Facebook stopped 141 suspected Russian accounts on FBI tip

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Facebook Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Facebook took down some accounts ahead of last week's U.S. midterms that federal authorities told them might possibly be from the Russian Internet Research Agency -- the same group that tried to influence the 2016 election.

The company on Monday gave details of the effort, saying it removed 36 Facebook accounts, 6 Facebook pages and 99 Instagram accounts that weren't run by real people, and were coordinating to spread political messages ahead of the election. While many of the accounts just wrote about celebrities, some also discussed social issues like women's rights and gay rights. A total of about 1.25 million people followed at least one of the Instagram accounts, with 600,000 of those people in the U.S.

Facebook isn't ready to say definitively that they're from Russia.

"This effort may have been connected to the IRA, but we aren't best placed to say definitively whether that is the case," the company wrote in a blog post. "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."

Facebook said the FBI tipped the company off on Nov. 4 about suspicious online activity. The company has been working on improving its relationship with the government, so it can continue to get tips like this ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Facebook has added contracts with cybersecurity research firms and academic institutions, so it will have extra help. The company started building up its defenses after heavy criticism from the U.S. government for allowing Russia's interference in 2016.

-- Bloomberg News

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