"It's clear whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their identities than the Internet Research Agency did in the run up to the 2016 presidential election", said Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in a call with reporters.
Facebook did not want to talk about who could have been behind these accounts because they said that there isn't enough evidence to point the finger at Russian Federation.
These are important details, but on their own insufficient to support a firm determination, as we have also seen examples of authentic political groups interacting with IRA content in the past.Rather, the posts appeared created to appeal to different sets of thinking. There was no specific evidence that political candidates were targeted, but one account followed an IRA-associated account for a brief period. In total, the pages created 9,500 posts on Facebook before they were first detected two weeks ago and later removed, the company said.
We're still in the very early stages of our investigation and don't have all the facts - including who may be behind this.
They added that the perpetrators had been "more careful to cover their tracks" than in 2016, in part because of steps Facebook has taken to prevent abuse over the past year.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said that the activity bore some similarities to that of the Internet Research Agency, but that the actors had better disguised their efforts, using VPNs, internet phone services and third parties to purchase ads for them.
This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook because we don't want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing.
Facebook says it has found some connections between the accounts it removed and the accounts connected to Russia's Internet Research Agency that it removed before and after the 2016 USA presidential elections.
Special counsel Robert Mueller later indicted the IRA for its "strategic goal to sow discord in the USA political system".
The most followed Facebook Pages were "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being" and "Resisters". Facebook said that the people behind the accounts went to greater lengths to hide their identities than in past influence campaigns. "These discoveries helped us uncover the other inauthentic accounts we disabled today".
On Tuesday Facebook announced it had deactivated the bad actors for "inauthentic behavior".
Still, Facebook said it's possible that this latest campaign is actually the IRA with improved techniques.
Facebook has been grappling with an ongoing public backlash for being slow to recognize Russian interfere in the 2016 USA presidential election, along with widespread concerns over its past data-sharing practices. "We know that Russian Federation is coming back in 2018, 2020, and beyond".
In one case, a known IRA account was a co-admin on one of the pages for seven minutes before the account was removed from Facebook.
Facebook has uncovered 32 pages and accounts working together to spread messaging tied to hot-button issues, the same tactics used during the 2016 election.
Today's announcement is meant to send the message that Facebook is on top of the problem. "I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activities and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future".