Facebook blocks 115 'inauthentic' accounts over election interference fears as midterm elections start

Joe Curtis
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At Joint Senate Commerce/Judiciary Hearing
Zuckerberg once called the idea that Facebook's platform could be abused 'crazy' (Source: Getty)

Facebook has blocked more than 100 accounts displaying suspicious activity on the eve of the US midterm elections, raising concerns of voting manipulation.

The social network is investigating whether 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts might be connected to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which was at the heart of attempts to use social media to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.

Facebook pages associated with the accounts were mostly written in Russian and French, while the Instagram accounts were predominantly written in English.

Some of the accounts focused on celebrities while others posted about politics.

Head of cyber security police, Nathaniel Gleicher, said the accounts were blocked for exhibiting possible “coordinated inauthentic behavior”.

It discovered the accounts after US law enforcement tipped the company off about online activity they believe is linked to foreign actors.

The news came hours before voting began in the US midterm elections, which will define whether Republicans or Democrats control US Congress two years into Donald Trump’s presidency.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are set to be voted on, while 35 of 100 Senate seats will also be on the ballot.

Facebook is stepping up its scrutiny of account activity to prevent election interference after billionaire boss Mark Zuckerberg first dismissed claims that Russia could have used his platform to influence the 2016 election as “crazy”.

The social network later admitted that Russian operatives published 80,000 posts online between June 2015 and August 2017.

In the UK, Facebook has been referred to the Irish data watchdog to investigate how the social network targets users with advertising.