Facebook removes Russian, Iranian accounts trying to interfere in 2020

Facebook on Monday announced it had taken down networks belonging to Russian and Iranian actors on both Facebook and Instagram, part of a new effort to secure the platforms from foreign interference ahead of the 2020 election.

The networks comprised pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram that were “engaging in inauthentic behavior” regarding elections. They were targeting the U.S., North Africa and Latin America. Three of the networks were Iranian, while one was Russian.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that the Russian network had the “hallmarks of a well-resourced operation” with potential links to the Russian Internet Research Agency, a group that carried out interference campaigns during the 2016 U.S. elections.

Facebook emphasized in its announcement that the accounts were taken down “based on their behavior, not the content they posted.”

In a press call on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailed the company’s work to prevent disinformation and voter suppression in 2020.

“We’re in a much better place in dealing with this, but this isn’t an area where we can take our eye off the ball, or where you ever fully solve the problem,” Zuckerberg said.

And some policy updates: Zuckerberg also unveiled a set of new set of policy changes and tools for election security.

The platform unveiled “Facebook Protect,” a service for campaigns to help secure them against hacking. Campaigns that opt-in to the service will have to “turn on two-factor authentication, and their accounts will be monitored for hacking, such as login attempts from unusual locations or unverified devices,” according to Facebook.

The social media giant is also adding a tab to all pages with information about their operators, including location, legal name or website.

New rules on state-run media: Facebook also announced plans to identify content from state-controlled media sources posted on its platform.

“Next month, we’ll begin labeling media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government as state-controlled media,” the social media giant said in a blog post.

Facebook’s definition of state-controlled media was developed in collaboration with experts and organizations in the fields of media, governance, human rights and development. The company says it will make the determinations based on the funding and structure of media companies, as well as open-source reporting about them.

The policy change is likely to affect outlets like Russia Today, which was reportedly used by the Kremlin to help influence the 2016 election.