OAKLAND, Calif. — Facebook says it has removed a small network of accounts and pages linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency, the “troll factory" that has used social media accounts to sow political discord in the U.S. since the 2016 presidential election.
The social media platform says they removed 13 Facebook accounts and two pages, which had a combined following of about 14,000 people. The fictitious accounts were pointing users to what appeared to be a new news service, Peace Data.
The group operated an off-platform website that was “masquerading as an independent news outlet based primarily in Romania,” the Facebook investigation found.
“We began this investigation based on information about this network’s off-platform activity from the FBI. Our internal investigation revealed the full scope of this network on Facebook,” Facebook stated in a blog post.
The people behind the accounts recruited “unwitting" freelance journalists to post stories in English and Arabic, mainly targeting left-leaning audiences.
The Washington Post reports the group hired freelance writers to create content critical of Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris. The articles were then posted to liberal-leaning pages and groups on Facebook in an attempt to undermine support among liberal voters.
Facebook said Tuesday the network's activity focused on the U.S., U.K., Algeria, Egypt and other English-speaking countries and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Investigations found Russian operatives from the Internet Research Agency ran widespread campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube during the 2016 election that was widely seen as bolstering Trump’s campaign and growing division among voters.