‘Coordinated inauthentic behaviour’: Facebook removes accounts linked to Russia’s Sputnik

A Facebook sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

On January 7, Facebook removed hundreds of pages, groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a network that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern European countries.

“The page administrators and account owners primarily represented themselves as independent news Pages or general interest Pages on topics like weather, travel, sports, economics, or politicians in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan. Despite their misrepresentations of their identities, we found that these pages and accounts were linked to employees of Sputnik, a news agency based in Moscow, and that some of the Pages frequently posted about topics like anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Facebook Cybersecurity Policy, said in Thursday’s statement .

Links to Sputnik on ‘Belarusian’ page

It is an ongoing challenge because the people behind the activities are determined and well funded, the company’s representative stresses.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they post. In these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action,” the statement reads.

Separately, based on an initial tip from US law enforcement, Facebook cybersecurity Policy department also removed 107 Facebook Pages, Groups, and accounts, as well as 41 Instagram accounts, for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a network that originated in Russia and operated in Ukraine. According to the company, the individuals behind these accounts primarily represented themselves as Ukrainian, and they operated a variety of fake accounts while sharing local Ukrainian news stories on a variety of topics, such as weather, protests, NATO, and health conditions at schools.

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Photo by Aly Song/Reuters/Forum

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