MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia today requested an explanation from Facebook after the social media giant said it had launched a campaign to mislead Russians protesting the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The US-based social network said its robotic systems discovered and disrupted 530 Instagram accounts being used in the campaign against protesters who took to the streets in Russia after Navalny’s arrest in mid-January.
The Russian Communications Monitoring Authority said: “Roskomnadzor has sent Facebook management a message containing a request to provide lists of accounts to which access has been restricted and also to explain the reasons for their blocking.”
Roskomnadzor demanded that Facebook, which owns the photo-centric service, provide evidence that the banned accounts were involved in “illegal activities.”
The Instagram accounts network used hashtags and “poisoning” with the site typically associated with spam or financial scams to overwhelm protesters’ posts, according to Facebook’s global threat disruption leader David Agranovich.
Some Instagram posts indicated that people contracted Covid-19 and died as a result of attending the protests, according to samples provided by Facebook.
Facebook reported that 55,000 people had followed one or more Instagram accounts.
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets in January and February to protest against Navalny’s arrest and President Vladimir Putin’s two-decade rule.
Navalny was sentenced last month to two and a half years in prison in a penal colony for breaching the terms of parole while he was recovering in Germany from a nerve gas-poisoning attack in Novichok.