Dozens of Facebook pages linked to Russian and Iranian propaganda efforts were shuttered in the company's latest effort to combat misinformation
- Facebook removed dozens of accounts and Pages originating in Russia and Iran, the social media giant announced on Wednesday morning.
- The accounts and Pages were engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a government or foreign actor," Facebook head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher wrote in a blog post.
- In the case of the Russian accounts and Pages that were banned, Facebook found digital footprints tracing back to Russian military intelligence services.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Facebook has removed dozens of accounts it said were engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a government or foreign actor," the company revealed on Wednesday morning.
Those accounts primarily originated in Russia, Facebook head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said, where the focus was on propaganda efforts in Ukraine.
"The Page admins and account owners typically posted content in Russian, English and Ukrainian about local and political news including public figures in Ukraine, Russian military engagement in Syria, alleged SBU leaks related to ethnic tensions in Crimea and the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine in 2014," he said.
Moreover, Gleicher said Facebook traced back the activity to Russian military intelligence services.
Beyond the pages linked to Russia, 11 Facebook and Instagram accounts originating in Iran were shuttered. Unlike the Russian accounts, the ones tied to Iran were intended to sway American Facebook users.
"They shared posts about political news and geopolitics including topics like the US elections, Christianity, US-Iran relations, US immigration policy, criticism of US policies in the Middle East and public figures as well as video interviews with academics, public figures and columnists on issues related to Iran and US elections," Gleicher said.
Facebook has been on a years-long effort to improve its image after failing to adequately police its massive social networks.
During the 2016 US election, the Russian government used Facebook and other social media services to influence the election in President Donald Trump's favor. In the years since, both the Trump campaign and Facebook have downplayed the role that Facebook played in the 2016 election.
Some have argued, including one former Facebook exec, that another aspect of Facebook had a much larger impact on the 2016 elections: Advertising.
"Was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected?" Facebook VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth wrote in early January. "I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks."
Though Russia attempted to influence the election in favor of Trump through various means on Facebook - advertising and fake accounts, among other methods - Bosworth said those attempts weren't particularly effective.
Instead, Bosworth said, "He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I've ever seen from any advertiser. Period."
The Trump campaign "did unbelievable work," he said. "They weren't running misinformation or hoaxes. They weren't micro targeting or saying different things to different people," Bosworth wrote. "They just used the tools we had to show the right creative to each person. The use of custom audiences, video, ecommerce, and fresh creative remains the high water mark of digital ad campaigns in my opinion."
Facebook has also come under fire for not fact-checking ads run by politicians, even when those politicians run ads that contain falsehoods.
It's become a major point of contention between Facebook's critics and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has repeatedly argued in favor of the policy.
"We don't fact-check political ads," Zuckerberg said in a wide-ranging speech at Georgetown University in October 2019. "We don't do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won't take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards."