- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Facebook said it removed dozens of Instagram accounts after a Russian website took credit for using them to meddle in the U.S. midterm races, albeit after voters had begun casting ballots.

The social network’s head of cybersecurity in a statement Tuesday evening that a website claiming to be associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian firm accused of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, boasted of operating over 90 different accounts on the Facebook-owned photo-sharing service.

Several of the Instagram handles listed on the website were among those blocked on the eve of the midterms for inauthentic behavior, and the remaining accounts were banned after being brought to Facebook’s attention by law enforcement late Tuesday, Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement first published by TechCrunch.

“This is a timely reminder that these bad actors won’t give up — and why it’s so important we work with the U.S. government and other technology companies to stay ahead,” Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy said in the statement.

Facebook initially reported Monday that over 100 accounts had been removed from both its flagship social networking service and Instagram for inauthentic behavior, and that it was examining whether any of the users were operated by the IRA or other foreign entities.

Think Progress, a left-leaning new site, subsequently reported that it received a private message over the weekend from a Twitter account, @IRA_USA1, linking to a website claiming to be operated by the “Internet Research Agency American Department.” The Twitter account has since been suspended.

“Citizens of the United States of America! Your intelligence agencies are powerless,” reads a message on the website, usaira.ru. “Despite all their efforts, we have thousands of accounts registered on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit spreading political propaganda. These accounts work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to discredit anti-Russian candidates and support politicians more useful for us than for you.”

The website was updated Tuesday evening to include the names of dozen of Instagram accounts allegedly operated by the IRA, as well as a message that said Facebook and intelligence agencies “only managed to uncover 1/25 of the whole picture,” Think Progress reported.

The website was registered Friday to Azimut, LLC, a Russian company that FBI agents probing the 2016 election have previously accused of funneling money to the troll farm, according to public internet records.

Russia interference in the 2016 race by deploying operatives including state-sponsored hackers, propagandists and internet trolls, according to U.S. officials, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has filed criminal charges against the IRA, its accused mastermind and several employees, including the alleged general director of Azimut, LLC, as part of the government’s investigation into election meddling and related matters.

Russian defendants allegedly used Azimut to transfer funds to the IRA from Concord Management and Consulting, a company run in part by Russian oligarch and President Vladimir Putin friend Yevgeny Prigozhin, Mr. Mueller’s office charged in previous court filings.

“Despite all the phobias affecting the U.S., Russia has never interfered in electoral processes in any country, including the United States, and has no intention to do it in the future,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters following Tuesday’s midterm races, The Moscow Times reported.

A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

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