Facebook Deletes Hundreds Of Russian Accounts, Says No To Global GDPR

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Meanwhile it has emerged that Mark Zuckerberg will testify before US House Energy and Commerce Committee on 11 April

Facebook has revealed it has deleted over a hundred accounts linked to a Russian news farm, known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

Meanwhile Facebook’s boss, Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on 11 April. Last week he refused to appear before British MPs.

And in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal, Zuckerberg added to the pressure when he stopped short on committing his company to Europe’s strict new GDPR rules as the standard across the world. This is despite him agreeing “in spirit” with the new rules.

IRA takedown

The news that Facebook has clamped down on the Facebook accounts of Russia’s IRA, was revealed in a statement by Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, in which he said that the IRA has no place on Facebook.

He said that they had removed 70 Facebook and 65 Instagram accounts – as well as 138 Facebook Pages – controlled by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA).

It is worth noting that the IRA has been accused by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller of trying to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.

But Stamos said that Facebook’s months long investigation had found that shown that most of the IRA accounts and pages were in Russian (targeted either at people living in Russia or Russian-speakers around the world).

“The IRA has repeatedly used complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people who use Facebook, including before, during and after the 2016 US presidential elections,” said Stamos. “It’s why we don’t want them on Facebook.”

“We removed this latest set of Pages and accounts solely because they were controlled by the IRA – not based on the content,” he added.

“The IRA has consistently used inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people,” he said. “It’s why we remove every account we find that is linked to the organisation – whether linked to activity in the US, Russia or elsewhere.”

“We know that the IRA – and other bad actors seeking to abuse Facebook – are always changing their tactics to hide from our security team,” he concluded. “We expect we will find more, and if we do we will take them down too. But we’ll keep fighting and we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to constantly improve safety on Facebook.”

No Global GDPR

Meanwhile Zuckerberg has told Reuters that while he supports the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), he doesn’t intend to roll it out globally.

Zuckerberg told Reuters in a phone interview that Facebook was working on a version of the law that would work globally, bringing some European privacy guarantees worldwide, but the 33-year-old billionaire demurred when asked what parts of the law he would not extend worldwide.

“We’re still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing,” Zuckerberg said. He did not elaborate.

In January Facebook said it would offer new privacy tools to users and promised to be more transparent about what data it collects and how it is used to serve adverts ahead of the arrival of the EU’s GDPR in May.

The GDPR is the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted.

Apple and some other tech firms have said they do plan to give people in the United States and elsewhere the same protections and rights that Europeans will gain

Zuckerberg meanwhile will reportedly testify before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on 11 April.

“This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” the panel’s Republican chairman Greg Walden and top Democrat Frank Pallone said in a statement.

Facebook has endured a torrid three weeks after the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal was revealed to the world.

Last week Facebook announced that it was severing its partnership with a number of large data brokers, which help advertisers deliver targetted adverts on the social network. It has also tweaked its privacy controls to make it easier to safeguard privacy.

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