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Dozens of Facebook, Instagram accounts blocked over election interference concerns

08 November 2018

Facebook Inc blocked about 115 user accounts after US authorities tipped it off to suspicious behavior that may be linked to a foreign entity, the company said in a blog post on Monday, hours before USA voters head to the polls.

In a statement published the night before polls opened, the company said it had been contacted by the police about suspicious behaviour believed to be linked to foreign entities.

Facebook on October 26 removed 82 Pages, Groups and accounts for what it called "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" that originated in Iran and targeted people in the United States and Britain.

The social networking giant said the accounts were immediately blocked while investigations take place.

USA prosecutors have accused the so-called troll farm in St. Petersburg and other Russian Federation operatives of seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election, including by spreading misinformation and sowing discord on social networks.

"Some were focused on celebrities, others political debate", he wrote, and did not list or further describe them.

It was the US law enforcement that warned Facebook about these accounts.

All the pages on Facebook that are associated with these accounts were French or Russian, according to the company.

"We see this as probably the biggest companywide reorientation since our shift from desktops to mobile phones", Samidh Chakrabarti, who's in charge of elections and civic engagement at Facebook, told The New York Times.

"At this time we have no indication of compromise of our nation's election infrastructure that would prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes", the statement said adding "Americans should be aware that foreign actors-and Russian Federation in particular-continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions meant to sow discord".

"Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly", Gleicher said in the statement.

In this context, the director of the Oxford Institute and author of the study Philip Howard found that the efforts of Twitter and Facebook in order to eradicate the misinformation of their platforms were "wordsmithing" and that "obviously, small fignolages do not produce a great impact".

Dozens of Facebook, Instagram accounts blocked over election interference concerns