SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc. blocked around 115 user accounts after US authorities canceled them to suspicious behavior that might be related to a foreign entity, the company said in a blog post on Monday, hours before US voters headed to the polls.
A voter fills out his ballot at the initial polling station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA November 4, 2018. REUTERS / Nick Oxford
The social network says it is necessary to do further analysis to decide whether the account is connected to the Russian Internet Research Agency or another group. The United States accuses Russian government agencies of interfering in US politics with social media posts intended to disseminate misinformation and sow disputes.
Eighty-five deleted accounts were posted in English on the Instagram Facebook service, and 30 others were on Facebook and linked to pages in French and Russian, the post said.
Some accounts "focused on celebrities" and others on "political debate," he added.
The trick came from US law enforcement late Sunday, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook's cyber security policy, wrote in the post.
The company announced its actions earlier in its investigation than is typical "given that we are only one day away from important elections in the US," he added.
This year's contest has been described as very important by Republicans and Democrats because both Congress's rooms, and the accompanying ability to continue or reject President Donald Trump's agenda, are up for grabs.
"America must realize that foreign actors, and Russia in particular, continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow disputes," including through social media, the federal government said in a statement on Monday.
Social media companies say they are now more wary of foreign interference and the potential for other electoral disruptions after finding themselves unprepared to handle the activity in the US presidential election two years ago.
(This story corrects the main headline, paragraph 5 to show tips coming from U.S. law enforcement, not the FBI)
Reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Clarence Fernandez