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Facebook Axes 32 Pages, Claiming Efforts To Disrupt Elections

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Facebook announced Tuesday that it removed 32 pages from its platforms that the company determined were designed to influence the 2018-midterm elections.

The company added that the ads were more sophisticated than previous fake ads. While it's not clear who is behind them, evidence points to Russia.

Facebook says the influence campaign involved 17 Facebook profiles and seven Instagram accounts with 290,000 followers.

One page was pushing an Abolish Ice message, another promoted a counter demonstration to a Unite the Right Event.

The social media giant, which has 2 billion users, said it deterred that it described as "well-funded adversaries" who are "constantly changing tactics."

Political analyst David Schultz, of Hamline University, says these kind of attacks are here to stay.

"This may simply be the proverbial tip of the iceberg in terms of finding the numbers of fake accounts and efforts to try and manipulate social media and the elections," he said.

Facebook says there are a number of similarities in this latest attack to the 2016 misinformation campaign that was linked to Russia.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), who was among the legislators who grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in April, said in a statement that this latest attack is more evidence that Congress needs to pass her Honest Ads Act, which would require internet companies to disclose who is paying for ads.

"Russia is getting bolder and the lights are flashing red and that is because they did this to a great effect in 2016 and they continue doing it," she said.

Minnesota was one of 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian-linked hackers in 2016. That attempted hack was not successful.

Minnesota's Secretary of State Steve Simon said Tuesday that his office is continuing to work with federal intelligence agencies to protect Minnesota's mid-term elections.

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