Facebook announced late Monday the suspension of 115 accounts it believed to be engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” as top law enforcement officials warned that Russia may still try to interfere in U.S. elections.
The social media giant said it had opened a probe into the accounts to determine whether they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, an organization special counsel Robert Mueller named in a February indictment for allegedly attempting to sway U.S. public opinion. In a blog post, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the company was tipped off to the Facebook and Instagram accounts, which operated in Russian, French and English, by law enforcement.
“Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly,” Gleicher wrote. “But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the US, we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today.”
The heads of U.S. intelligence and national security also issued a statement in the hours before polls opened, assuring the public that the Tuesday elections were secure, but urging Americans to remain vigilant to possible influence campaigns. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray said they had “no indication” that a foreign entity could “prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes.”
“But Americans should be aware that foreign actors — and Russia in particular — continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord,” the agency heads wrote. “They can do this by spreading false information about political processes and candidates, lying about their own interference activities, disseminating propaganda on social media, and through other tactics.”
Social media companies have ramped up coordination with law enforcement to prevent foreign influence campaigns aimed at interfering in the U.S. democratic process. Facebook, Twitter and Google acknowledged to Congress in February that the Internet Research Agency created thousands of accounts on their sites, reaching American users through posts and paid ads.
Two weeks ago, Facebook purged 82 Iranian-originated accounts for posting about race relations, opposition to President Donald Trump and immigration while presenting themselves as American or British citizens. The social network has also opened an “elections war room” to discover and investigate malign activity.