More accounts and pages controlled by Russia’s Internet Research Agency have been found on Facebook (NASDAQ: FB). Facebook said it had found and removed more than 270 accounts and pages controlled by the so-called troll factory. The company also removed $167,000 worth of ads purchased by the Russian-controlled pages since 2015.
Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said that the company had taken down 70 accounts and 138 pages on Facebook and 65 accounts on Instagram. Most of the accounts and pages were in Russian targeting users in Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Stamos said that more than a million people had followed the Facebook pages and that 493,000 had followed the Instagram accounts. It did not offer data on how many users were reached by the 70 IRA-linked Facebook accounts that have been removed.
The company did not claim the new accounts and pages had violated the company’s policies. The accounts were posting content about Russian culture and tourism, domestic and international political issues, and everyday topics. Facebook released several examples of the material it had taken down in the blog post and said it would make more material public in the future.
The accounts and pages were taken down because of the Internet Research Agency’s past fraud, according to a statement from Facebook. The Internet Research Agency became infamous for posting fraudulent and divisive material on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election. A profile in The New York Times Magazine in 2015 described how it paid trolls to post false stories and inflammatory comments on various internet sites.
In September, Facebook disclosed that it had discovered and taken down several hundred fraudulent profiles and pages linked to the Internet Research Agency. Most of the pages praised Donald J. Trump, bashed Hillary Clinton, or spread inflammatory content about divisive issues like race, immigration, and guns. The Russian-bought ads reached approximately 10 million people and targeted users in Michigan and Wisconsin.
In February, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicted 13 Russians associated with the Internet Research Agency over interference in the election. Russia is not expected to extradite any of them to the United States to face trial.