Facebook has removed hundreds more Russian troll accounts

Most were geared towards Russian-speaking individuals.

Throughout investigations into Russia-backed efforts to sow political discord in the US during the last presidential election, US officials have said that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) played a major role. Last month, the US Department of the Treasury instituted sanctions on the IRA and 13 individuals who are believed to have assisted the Russian group in some way. In February, a federal jury indicted 13 Russian nationals connected with the IRA on various charges related to alleged efforts to interfere with the US election. Facebook has been working to remove all IRA-produced content from its platform and today it took down 70 Facebook accounts, 65 Instagram accounts and 138 Facebook Pages all believed to be controlled by the group.

Of those accounts and Pages, Facebook says around 95 percent were written in Russian and were targeted towards Russian-speaking individuals in countries like Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. "The IRA has repeatedly used complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people who use Facebook, including before, during and after the 2016 US presidential elections," Facebook said today. "It's why we don't want them on Facebook. We removed this latest set of Pages and accounts solely because they were controlled by the IRA -- not based on the content."

In a post today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that some of the accounts belonged to Russian news organizations that Facebook believes are controlled by the IRA. Around one million people followed at least one of the now removed Facebook accounts while approximately 493,000 followed at least one of the Instagram accounts.

Last year, Facebook began letting its users know if they followed Pages created by the IRA. Twitter and Tumblr have also been letting users know if they interacted with any IRA content. Facebook says it will soon update its Help Center tool so users can see if they liked or followed any of the newly removed Pages.

In a statement about the announcement, Senator Mark Warner said he was glad Facebook was continuing to address IRA activity but added that he also expects the company to work with Congress on updating laws "to better protect our democracy in the future."

Images: Facebook