Facebook Takes Down Accounts Tied To Russian Businessman Behind ‘Troll Factory’

Facebook said it suspended three Russian-backed networks of accounts that were targeting people in eight African countries.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a blog post on Wednesday that the influence campaigns were connected to “entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin,” a Russian businessman who was indicted by the United States for running the troll factory that tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s chef” because he has catered banquets for the Russian president.

The networks of accounts targeted Facebook and Instagram users in Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Congo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya. Together they had more than a million followers, and spent about $87,000 on Facebook ads to promote their posts.

The networks used fake and compromised accounts to reach followers. But Gleicher said that in some countries, the Russian networks also worked with locals with authentic accounts to avoid detection.

Facebook is under pressure from lawmakers and the public to curb the spread of disinformation and foreign influence attempts ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Editor’s note: Facebook is among NPR’s financial supporters.

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