- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced that Facebook will remove “more than 270 pages and accounts” operated by a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency.

In a blog post the firm’s embattled CEO said, “Most of our actions against the IRA to date have been to prevent them from interfering in foreign elections. This update is about taking down their pages targeting people living in Russia. This Russian agency has repeatedly acted deceptively and tried to manipulate people in the US, Europe, and Russia — and we don’t want them on Facebook anywhere in the world.”

Earlier this year, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities — including the IRA — of operating Eastern European and Russian troll farms and waging “information warfare” against the U.S.

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Since the 2016 poll, which featured waves of Russian propaganda flooding America’s unregulated social media platforms, including Twitter and Google, Facebook has come under increasing pressure too better regulate its online ads and newsfeeds to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Initially, Mr. Zuckerberg dismissed the notion that his social media platform had been manipulated by foreign agents to influence the 2016 vote.

But last month another controversy engulfed the firm after news broke about its ties to Cambridge Analytica — a data analysis firm hired by the 2016 Trump campaign and accused of exploiting the personal information of millions of Facebook users without their permission.

Since that scandal broke, Facebook’s stock has dropped almost 20 percent and lost the company roughly $80 billion in market value.

Mr. Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear before Capitol Hill lawmakers next week to defend Facebook and has recently been on a major damage control publicity blitz.

Earlier this year he admitted social media is awash in “sensationalism, misinformation and polarization.”

“Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before,” he wrote in a blog post, “and if we don’t specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them.”

On Tuesday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg added that the firm’s efforts to address the IRA would continue. Last year the firm shuttered 470 fake accounts it suspected of being connected to the shadowy outfit.

“The IRA has a history of targeting people with deceptive content and it has no place on Facebook anywhere in the world,” Ms. Sandberg said on Tuesday in a blog post.

From Washington on Tuesday, Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and advocate of greater transparency for online political advertisements, warned Facebook to continue rooting out fake accounts.

“Given the scale and scope of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign, it was always clear that Russian activity on Facebook extended far beyond the 470 fake accounts and pages that the company shut down in September,” he said in a statement.

“Today’s disclosure of more IRA-linked accounts is evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division, spread disinformation, and influence political debates around the globe,” Mr. Warner added.

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