Facebook and Twitter caught Russian trolls running a literal fake news site

The troll farm tricked 'unwitting' journalists into writing articles.

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Facebook and Twitter have, again, caught Russian trolls trying to meddle with their platforms. Both companies disclosed that they had suspended a handful of accounts linked to the Internet research Agency, the Russian troll farm behind Russia’s 2016 election interference campaign.

Though not the first time the companies found IRA accounts this year, it does seem the group has been evolving it tactics. Both Facebook and Twitter report that the IRA accounts pushed a news site in an effort to boost their credibility, and that they managed to hire actual (and apparently “unwitting”) journalists to write for it.

“In total, our team has found and removed about a dozen deceptive campaigns connected to individuals associated with the IRA,” Facebook wrote in an update. “The IRA-linked campaign we removed in August was largely unsuccessful on Facebook, but it tricked unwitting freelance journalists into writing stories on its behalf.”

Similarly, Twitter said that it had identified five accounts it could “reliably attribute to Russian state actors,” which seem to have been associated with the same scheme. As on Facebook, Twitter says the accounts “achieved little impact on Twitter” and mostly posted spammy and other “low quality” tweets.

But the company notes that the accounts, which were associated with a news website called “PeaceData” had hired freelancers to produce content. Twitter says that it will now block links to the PeaceData website and that “existing links will be de-amplified.”

Both Twitter and Facebook said they were tipped off to the IRA activity by the FBI, which helped them shut down the accounts before they could grow their influence.