Ahead of US midterms, Facebook blocks 115 accounts

Nov 07, 2018, 10:50 IST | Agencies

The company took action after being tipped off by US law enforcement officials, who noticed activity believed to be 'linked to foreign entities'

Ahead of US midterms, Facebook blocks 115 accounts
Poll workers attach a sign as they set up a voting station at Laguna Beach City Hall in Orange County, before the polls open. Pic/AFP

Facebook said it blocked 115 accounts for suspected "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" linked to foreign groups attempting to interfere in Tuesday's US midterm elections.

The social media company shut down 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts and is investigating them in more detail, it said in a blog post late Monday. The company took action after being tipped off Sunday evening by US law enforcement officials, who notified the company about recently discovered online activity, "which they believe may be linked to foreign entities," Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote in the post.

Gleicher said that they will provide an update once the company learns more, "including whether these accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities." Almost all of the Facebook Pages associated with the latest blocked accounts appeared to be in French or Russian. The Instagram accounts were mostly in English and were focused either on celebrities or political debate. No further details were given about the accounts or suspicious activity.

Facebook's purge is part of countermeasures to prevent abuses like those used by Russian groups two years ago to sway public opinion ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

Why are the polls important?
Voting began on Tuesday in the crucial midterm elections in the US. The US House of Representatives - similar to India's Lok Sabha - has 435 seats, of which the Republicans in the current Congress have 235 seats and the Democrats have 193. Elections for all the members of the House are held every two years. According to political pundits, the Democrats have a good chance of winning the House, while the Republicans are likely to retain the Senate. The Republicans are expected to increase their tally in the 100-Senate seat where they already have a very thin majority.

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