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Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency

Facebook took down fake accounts and pages associated with Russian operatives who sought to trick freelance journalists into writing stories on their behalf, the company announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Facebook, caught off guard by Russian misinformation campaigns ahead of the 2016 presidential election, is trying to be proactive about weeding out foreign actors attempting manipulation on the platform before November's election.

Context: 13 Facebook accounts and two pages were found to be linked to people associated with Russia's Internet Research Agency, which interfered on the platform in 2016. Facebook worked off a tip from the FBI.

Details: In August, Facebook removed a campaign linked to the IRA, which it deemed to be "largely unsuccessful" in getting journalists to write stories on its behalf.

  • Facebook is notifying those who were contacted by the IRA.
  • A report from cybersecurity firm Graphika said the IRA activity was small-scale, but similar to 2016 efforts to mostly criticize Democratic candidates. The campaign on Facebook was meant to draw attention to a website called peacedata.net that ran hundreds of articles.

The big picture: The move came amid a broader crackdown on political interference campaigns around the world.

  • Facebook also removed accounts and pages from U.S.-based strategic communications firm CLS Strategies, which was behind inauthentic activity aimed at users in certain Latin American countries.
  • In Pakistan, Facebook removed accounts, pages and groups suspected to be engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.
  • "We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing effort," Facebook wrote in a blog post.

By the numbers: Last month, Facebook removed 521 Facebook accounts, 72 Instagram accounts, 147 Facebook pages and 78 Facebook groups.

Go deeper

State antitrust lawsuit will target Facebook's freeze-out of competitors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook's past moves cutting off competitors' access to its platform will be one target of the multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Facebook expected to be filed today, according to a person familiar with the case.

Why it matters: State attorneys general are looking to build a case that Facebook has illegally used a monopoly in social networking to elbow out competitors.

Dec 9, 2020 - Technology

The search for misinformation's measure

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Facebook and other big online platforms insist they're removing more and more misinformation. But they can't say whether they're actually stemming the tide of lies, and neither can we, because the deluge turns out to be impossible to define or measure.

Why it matters: The tech companies mostly won't share data that would let researchers better track the scale, spread and impact of misinformation. So the riddle remains unsolved, and the platforms can't be held accountable.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.