Category Archives: Instagram

Instagram launches walkie-talkie voice messaging

You’d think Facebook would be faster at copying itself. Five years after Facebook Messenger took a cue from WhatsApp and Voxer to launch voice messaging, and four months after TechCrunch reported Instagram was testing its own walkie-talkie feature, voice messaging is rolling out globally on Instagram Direct today.

Users can hold down the microphone button to record a short voice message that appears in the chat as an audio wave form that recipients can then listen to at their leisure. Voice messages are up to one-minute long, stay permanently listenable rather than disappearing and work in one-on-one and group chats on iOS and Android. The feature offers an off-camera asynchronous alternative to the video calling feature Instagram released in June. It will have to compete with Viber, Zello and Telegram, as well as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for the use case.

Hands-free Direct messaging could make Instagram a more appealing chat app for drivers, people on the move with their hands full or users in the developing world who want a more intimate connection without having to pay for the data for long audio or video calls. It also could be a win for users in countries with less popular languages or ones that aren’t easily compatible with smartphone keyboards, as they could talk to friends instead of typing.

The launch deepens Facebook’s entry into the voice market. From its first voice messaging and VOIP features back in 2013 to its new voice control system Aloha that works on its recently launched Portal video chat screen, Facebook has long taken an interest in the accessibility of voice, but only got serious about building it across its products in 2018. Along with Instagram video calling, today’s launch raises the question of whether Portal and Instagram will team up. That could make Portal more useful… but also risks making Instagram less cool by tightening its ties to Facebook.

Instagram now lets you share Stories to a Close Friends list

No one wants to post silly, racy or vulnerable Stories if they’re worried their boss, parents and distant acquaintances are watching. So to get people sharing more, and more authentically, Instagram will let you share to fewer people. Today after 17 months of testing, Instagram is globally launching Close Friends on iOS and Android over the next two days. It lets you build a single private list of your best buddies on Instagram through suggestions or search, and then share Stories just to them. They’ll see a green circle around your profile pic in the existing Story tray to let them know this is Close Friends-only content, but no one gets notified if they’re added or removed from your list that only you can view.

“As you add more and more people [on any social network], you start not to know them. That’s obviously going to change the things that you’re sharing and it makes it even harder to form very deep connections with your closest friends because you’re basically curating for the largest possible distribution,” said Instagram director of product Robby Stein, who announced the news onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. “To really be yourself and connect and be connected to your best friends, you need your own place.”

I spent the last few days demoing Close Friends and it’s remarkably smooth, intuitive and useful. Suddenly there was a place to post what I might otherwise consider too random or embarrassing to share. Teens already invented the idea of “Finstagrams,” or fake Instagram accounts, to share feed posts to just their favorite people without the pressure to look cool. Now Instagram is formalizing that idea into “Finstastories” through Close Friends.

The feature is a wise way to counteract the natural social graph creep that occurs as people accept social networking requests out of a sense of obligatory courtesy from people they aren’t close to, which then causes them to only share blander content. Helping people express their wild side as must-see content for their Close Friends could drive up time spent on the app. But there’s also the risk that the launch creates private echo sphere havens for offensive content beyond the eyes of those who’d rightfully report it.

“No one has ever mastered a close friends graph and made it easy for people to understand,” Stein notesThe path to variable sharing privacy winds through a cemetery. Facebook’s “Lists” product struggled to find traction for a decade before being half-shut down. Google+’s big selling point was “Circles” for sharing to different groups of people. But with both, users found it too boring and confusing to make a bunch of different lists they could share to or view feeds from. Snapchat launched its own Groups feature two months ago, but it’s easy to forget who’s in which list and they’re designed around group chat. Most users just end up trying their best to reject, unfollow or mute people they didn’t want to see or share with.

Now after almost 15 years of Facebook, 12 years of Twitter, eight years of Instagram and seven years of Snapchat, that strategy has failed for many, leading to noisy feeds and a fear of sharing to too many. “People get friend requests and they feel pressure to accept,” Stein explains. “The curve is actually that your sharing goes up and as you add more people initially, as more people can respond to you. But then there’s a point where it reduces sharing over time.”

So Instagram chose to build Close Friends as just a single list in hopes that you won’t lose track of who’s part of it. As the feature rolls out today, there’ll be an explainer Story from Instagram about it in your tray, you’ll get walked through when you hit the Close Friends button on the Story composer, and there’ll be a call out on your profile to configure Close Friends in the Settings menu. You’ll be able to search for your close friends or quickly add them from a list of suggestions based on who you interact with most. You can add or remove as many people as you want without them knowing, they just will or won’t see your green circled Close Friends story. “We’re protecting you and your right to share or not share to certain people. It gives you air cover,” Stein tells me.

From then on, you can use the Close Friends shortcut in the Stories composer to share it with just those people, who’ll see a green “Close Friends” label on the story to let them know they’re special. Instagram will use the signal of who you add to help rank and order your Stories tray, but it won’t automatically pop Close Friends Stories to the front. When asked if Facebook would use that data for personalization too, Stein told me, “We’re the same company,” but said using it to improve Facebook is “not something that we’re actively working on.”

There’s no screenshot alerts, similar to the rest of Instagram Stories, but you won’t be able to DM anyone someone else’s Close Friends Story. That’s it. “We haven’t invented any new design affordances or things you need to know,” Stein beams. For now it’s meant for user profiles, but publishers, social media celebrities and brands would probably love ways to build fan clubs through the feature. Perhaps Instagram would even allow creators to charge users to be admitted to Close Friends. If not, some savvy influencers will probably do it anyways as they try to make Instagram more like Patreon.

Instagram’s Robby Stein (left) tells TechCrunch’s Josh Constine about Close Friends at Disrupt Berlin

The one concern here is that Close Friends could create little bunkers in which people can share objectionable content without consequence. It’d be sad to see it harbor racism, sexism or other stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere on Instagram. Stein says that because you’re talking with friends instead of strangers on a Reddit, “it self regulates what it’s used for. We haven’t seen a lot of that usage in the testing that we’ve done. It’s still a broadcast channel and it doesn’t generate this group discussion. It doesn’t spiral.”

Overall, I think Close Friends will be a hit. When it started testing a prototype called Favorites in June 2017 it worked with feed posts too, but Instagram decided the off the cuff posts wouldn’t fit right next to your more widely broadcasted highlights. But confined to Stories, it feels like a natural and much-needed extension of what Instagram was always supposed to be but that’s gotten lost in our swelling social networks: giving the people you love a window into your life.

“The problem is Facebook,” lawmakers from nine countries tell Zuckerberg’s accountability stand-in

A grand committee of international parliamentarians empty-chaired Mark Zuckerberg at a hearing earlier today, after the Facebook founder snubbed repeat invitations to face questions about malicious, abusive and improper uses of his social media platform — including the democracy-denting impacts of so-called ‘fake news’.

The UK’s DCMS committee has been leading the charge to hold Facebook to account for data misuse scandals and election interference — now joined in the effort by international lawmakers from around the world. But still not by Zuckerberg himself.

In all parliamentarians from nine countries were in the room to put awkward questions to Zuckerberg’s stand in, policy VP Richard Allan — including asking what Facebook is doing to stop WhatsApp being used as a vector to spread political disinformation in South America; why Facebook refused to remove a piece of highly inflammatory anti-Muslim hate speech in Sri Lanka until the country blocked access to its platform; how Facebook continues to track non-users in Belgium and how it justifies doing so under Europe’s tough new GDPR framework; and, more generally, why anyone should have any trust in anything the company says at this point — with company neck-deep in privacy and trust scandals.

The elected representatives were collectively speaking up for close to 450 million people across the UK, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore. The most oft repeated question on their lips was why wasn’t Zuckerberg there?

Allan looked uncomfortable on his absentee boss’ behalf and spent the best part of three hours running the gamut of placative hand gestures as he talked about wanting to work with regulators to find “the right regulation” to rein in social media’s antisocial, anti-democratic impacts.

Canadian MP Bob Zimmer spoke for the room, cutting into another bit of Allan’s defensive pablum with: “Here we are again hearing another apology from Facebook — ‘look trust us, y’all regulate us etc but we really don’t have that much influence in the global scheme of things’. In this room we regulate over 400M people and to not have your CEO sit in that chair there is an offence to all of us in this room and really our citizens as well.”

“[Blackberry co-founder] Jim Balsille said, when I asked him on our committee, is our democracy at risk if we don’t change the laws in Canada to deal with surveillance capitalism?” Zimmer continued. “He said without a doubt. What do you think?” — which Allan took as a cue to ummm his way into another series of “we need tos”, and talk of “a number of problematic vectors” Facebook is trying to address with a number of “tools”.

The session was largely filled up such frustratingly reframed waffle, as Allan sought to deflect, defang and defuse the committee’s questions — leading it to accuse him more than once of repeating the ‘delay, deny, deflect’ tactics recently reported on by the New York Times.

Allan claimed not — claiming to be there “acknowledging” problems. But that empty chair beside him sure looked awkward.

At the close, Canada’s Charlie Angus sought to sweep Facebook’s hot air away by accusing Allan of distracting with symptoms — to draw the regulatory eye away from the root cause of the problem which he sharply defined as Facebook itself.

“The problem we have with Facebook is there’s never accountability — so I would put it to you when we talk about regulation that perhaps the best regulation would be antitrust,” he said. “Because people who don’t like Facebook — oh they could go to WhatsApp . But oh we have some problems in South America, we have problems in Africa, we have to go back to Mr Zuckerberg who’s not here.

“My daughters could get off Facebook. But they’d go to Instagram . But that’s now controlled by Facebook. Perhaps the simplest form of regulation would be to break Facebook up — or treat it as a utility so that we could all then feel that when we talk about regulation we’re talking about allowing competition, counting metrics that are actually honest and true, and that Facebook has broken so much trust to allow you to simply gobble up every form of competition is probably not in the public interest.

“So when we’re talking about regulation would you be interested in asking your friend Mr Zuckerberg if we could have a discussion about antitrust?”

Allan’s reached for an “it depends upon the problem we’re trying to solve” reply.

“The problem is Facebook,” retorted Angus. “We’re talking about symptoms but the problem is the unprecedented economic control of every form of social discourse and communication. That it’s Facebook. That that is the problem that we need to address.”

Committee chair Damian Collins also gave short shrift to Allan’s attempt to muddily reframe this line of questioning — as regulators advocating “turning off the Internet” (instead of what Angus was actually advocating: A way to get “credible democratic responses from a corporation”) — by interjecting: “I think we would also distinguish between the Internet and Facebook to say they’re not necessarily the same thing.”

The room affirmed its accord with that.

At the start of the session Collins revealed the committee would not — at least for now — be publishing the cache of documents it dramatically seized this weekend from the founder of a startup that’s been suing Facebook since 2015, saying it was “not in a position to do that”.

Although at several points during the session DCMS committee members appeared to tease some new details derived from these documents, asking for example whether Facebook had ever made API decisions for developers contingent on them taking advertising on its platform.

Allan said it had not — and appeared to be attempting to suggest that the emails the committee might have been reading were the result of ‘normal’ internal business discussions about how to evolve Facebook’s original desktop-based business model for the mobile-first era.

Collins did detail one piece of new information that he categorically identified as having been sourced from the seized documents — and specifically from an internal email sent by a Facebook engineer, dating from October 2014 — describing this to be of significant public interest.

“An engineer at Facebook notified the company in October 2014 that entities with Russian IP addresses had been using a Pinterest API key to pull over 3BN data points a day through the ordered friends API,” he revealed, asking Allan whether “that reported to any external body at the time”.

The Facebook VP responded by characterizing the information contained in the seized documents as “partial”, on account of being sourced via a “hostile litigant”.

“I don’t want you to use this opportunity just to attack the litigant,” retorted Collins. “I want you to address the question… what internal process [Facebook] ran when this was reported to the company by an engineer? And did they notify external agencies of this activity? Because if Russian IP addresses were pulling down a huge amount of data from the platform — was that reported or was that just kept, as so often seems to be the case, just kept within the family and not talked about.”

“Any information you have seen that’s contained within that cache of emails is at best partial and at worst potentially misleading,” responded Allan.

“On the specific question of whether or not we believe, based on our subsequent investigations, that there was activity by Russians at that time I will come back to you.”

We reached out to Pinterest to ask whether Facebook ever informed it about such an abuse of its API key. At the time of writing it had not responded to our request for comment.

WhatsApp’s chief business officer is leaving

Roughly one year after WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton made his highly publicized exit from Facebook, another executive and early employee of the messaging platform is doing the same. Neeraj Arora, WhatsApp’s chief business officer, announced today that he would be “taking some time off to recharge and spend time with family.”

Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 and pledged to allow the messaging giant to continue to operate independently under Acton and co-founder Jan Koum, who served as its chief executive officer until abruptly quitting over privacy and data concerns in April. Arora, who joined WhatsApp in 2011 from Google, was rumored to be the frontrunner to replace Koum as CEO. With him out the door, it’s unclear who will be tapped to lead WhatsApp.

In today’s announcement, Arora said he was “deeply indebted” to both Acton and Koum, “who entrusted me to be their business companion for so many years.”

Facebook subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram are both in periods of flux following the exits of their original founders, which are believed to be caused by quarrels with the social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg .

In what was one of the largest tech stories of 2018, Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced they were leaving Facebook years after the company acquired their photo-sharing app for $1 billion. They shared the news in September, just a few months after Koum stepped down from WhatsApp.

According to The New York Times, Zuckerberg, over the course of the last year, had begun to assert more and more control over Instagram, upsetting its leaders.

According to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, Koum, for his part, was unhappy “about how Facebook would monetize his app and the impact of that on privacy.” Both Acton and Koum departed Facebook before they fully vested from the multi-billion acquisition, meaning the pair chose to lose hundreds of millions of dollars over continued employment at Facebook.

Arora’s exit is further evidence that Facebook has entered a new era, one in which the company’s acquisition strategy may be in serious danger of long-term damage.

You can read Arora’s full post below.

Instagram kills off fake followers, threatens accounts that keep using apps to get them

Instagram is fighting back against automated apps people use to leave spammy comments or follow then unfollow others in hopes of growing their audience. Today Instagram is removing inauthentic follows, Likes, and comments that violate its policies from people’s accounts who use these apps; sending them a warning to change their password to cut ties with these apps, and saying people who continue using these apps “may see their Instagram experience impacted”. Instagram tells me it “may limit access to certain features, for example” for those users.

Instagram is also hoping to discourage users from ever giving another company the login details to their accounts as this can lead to them being hacked or having their account used to send spam. So if you see Instagram follower accounts drop, it’s not because that profile offended people, but because to followers were fake.

The renewed vigor for policy enforcement comes amidst the continuing threat of foreign misinformation campaigns on Facebook and Instagram designed to polarize communities and influence elections in the US and abroad. Facebook has said that inauthentic accounts are often the root of these campaigns, and it has removed 754 million fake accounts in the past quarter alone, and stopping these spam apps could prevent them from misusing clients’ accounts. Instagram has been taking down fake accounts since at least 2014, but this is the first time it’s publicly discussed removing fake likes from posts. It now says “We’ve built machine learning tools to help identify accounts that use [third-party apps for boosting followers] and remove the inauthentic activity.”

Some of the most popular bot apps for growing followers like Instagress and Social Growth have been shut down, but others like Archie, InstarocketProX, and Boostio charge $10 to $45 per month. They often claim not to violate Instagram’s policies, though they do. The New York Times this year found many well-known celebrities had stooped to buying fake Twitter followers from a company called Devumi.

Users typically have to provide their username and password to these services which then take control of their accounts and automatically Like, comment on, and follow accounts associated with desired hashtags to dupe them into following the unscrupulous user back. The spam app users will now get scolded by Instagram, which will send “an in-app message alerting them that we have removed the inauthentic likes, follows and comments given by their account to others” and be told to change their passwords.

InstarocketProX advertises how it sends fake likes and follows from your account to get you followers

One big question, though, is whether Instagram will crack down harder on ads for services that sell fake followers that appear on its app. I’ve spotted these in the past, and they sometimes masquerade as analytics apps for assisting influencers with tracking the size of their audience. We asked Instagram and a spokesperson told us “Ads are also subject to our Community Standards, which prohibit spammy activity like collecting likes, followers, etc. — so you are correct that ads promoting these services violate our policies. Please feel free to report them if you see them”.

Follower accounts on apps like Instagram have become measures of people’s influence, credibility, and earning potential. This is becoming especially true for social media stars who are paid for brand sponsorships in part based on their audience size. Now that brands are even paying “nanoinfluencers” with as a few as one thousand followers to post sponsored content, the allure to use these services can be high and lead to an immediate return on illicit investment.

If no one can believe those counts are accurate, it throws Instagram’s legitimacy into question. And every time you get a notification about a fake follow or Like, it distracts you from real life, dilutes the quality of conversation on Instagram, and makes people less likely to stick with the app. Anyone willing to pay for fake followers doesn’t deserve your attention, and Instagram should not hold back from terminating their accounts if they don’t stop.

WhatsApp could wreck Snapchat again by copying ephemeral messaging

WhatsApp already ruined Snapchat’s growth once. WhatsApp Status, its clone of Snapchat Stories, now has 450 million daily active users compared to Snapchat’s 188 million. That’s despite its 24-hour disappearing slideshows missing tons of features including augmented reality selfie masks, animated GIFs, or personalized avatars like Bitmoji. A good enough version of Stories conveniently baked into the messaging app beloved in the developing world where Snapchat wasn’t proved massively successful. Snapchat actually lost total users in Q2 and Q3 2018, and even lost Rest Of World users in Q2 despite that being where late stage social networks rely on for growth.

That’s why it’s so surprising that WhatsApp hasn’t already copied the other big Snapchat feature, ephemeral messaging. When chats can disappear, people feel free to be themselves — more silly, more vulnerable, more expressive. For teens who’ve purposefully turned away from the permanence of the Facebook profile timeline, there’s a sense of freedom in ephemerality. You don’t have to worry about old stuff coming back to haunt or embarass you. Snapchat rode this idea to become a cultural staple for the younger generation.

Yet right now WhatsApp only lets you send permanent photos, videos, and texts. There is an Unsend option, but it only works for an hour after a message is sent. That’s far from the default ephemerality of Snapchat where seen messages disappear once you close the chat window unless you purposefully tap to save them.

Instagram has arrived at a decent compromise. You can send both permanent and temporary photos and videos. Text messages are permanent by default, but you can unsend even old ones. The result is the flexibility to both chat through expiring photos and off-the-cuff messages knowing they will or can disappear, while also being able to have reliable, utilitarian chats and privately share photos for posterity without the fear that one wrong tap could erase them. When Instagram Direct added ephemeral messaging, it saw a growth spurt to over 375 million monthly users as of April 2017.

Snapchat lost daily active users the past two quarters

WhatsApp should be able to build this pretty easily. Add a timer option when people send media so photos or videos can disappear after 10 seconds, a minute, an hour, or a day. Let people add a similar timer to specific messages they send, or set a per chat thread default for how long your messages last similar to fellow encrypted messaging app Signal.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel’s memo leaked by Cheddar’s Alex Heath indicates that he views chat with close friends as the linchpin of his app that was hampered by this year’s disastrous redesign. He constantly refers to Snapchat as the fastest way to communicate. That might be true for images but not necessarily text, as BTIG’s Rich Greenfield points out, citing how expiring text can causes conversations to break down. It’s likely that Snapchat will double-down on messaging now that Stories has been copied to death.

Given its interest in onboarding older users, that might mean making texts easier to keep permanent or at least lengthening how long they last before they disappear. And with its upcoming Project Mushroom re-engineering of the Snapchat app so it works better in developing markets, Snap will increasingly try to become WhatsApp.

…Unless WhatsApp can become Snapchat first. Spiegel proved people want the flexibility of temporary messaging. Who cares who invented something if it can be brought to more people to deliver more joy? WhatsApp should swallow its pride and embrace the ephemeral.

Oh cool, you can see how much time you waste on Instagram now

Last year, Instagram was rated as the most damaging social network for one's mental wellbeing.

It's unsurprising all those vanity and #influencer posts weren't really doing us any favours, and now the app is rolling out a way to track your usage, and to limit it if need be.

Called Your Activity, the dashboard is accessible in the top right menu, and you can see how much time you've spent on the app on average, as well how much you're using it each day. 

There's also options to restrict your usage, in the vein of Apple's Screen Time and Google's Digital Wellbeing, where you can set a daily time limit and have Instagram notify you if you've spent too much time in the app. Read more...

More about Instagram, Social Media, Social Media Companies, Digital Wellbeing, and Tech

The preferred methods of extreme Instagram lurkers

You think you're good at Instagram lurking? There's always room to be sneakier.

The most proficient lurkers among us — people we both revere and fear, to be honest — have devised truly impressive ways to Insta-skulk without being detected. We're not talking basic stuff like "use desktop Instagram," either. The methods below will require a little effort, but you'll probably find them useful, whether you're keeping tabs on your crush or your sworn enemy. (These, of course, are the only two types of people anyone lurks.)

To be clear, we're not suggesting that you do these things. We are merely explaining that they are possible, and that if you wanted to do them it would be within your reach. That's all! Read more...

More about Instagram, Social Media, Culture, and Web Culture

Limiting social media use reduced loneliness and depression in new experiment

The idea that social media can be harmful to our mental and emotional well-being is not a new one, but little has been done by researchers to directly measure the effect; surveys and correlative studies are at best suggestive. A new experimental study out of Penn State, however, directly links more social media use to worse emotional states, and less use to better.

To be clear on the terminology here, a simple survey might ask people to self-report that using Instagram makes them feel bad. A correlative study would, for example, find that people who report more social media use are more likely to also experience depression. An experimental study compares the results from an experimental group with their behavior systematically modified, and a control group that’s allowed to do whatever they want.

This study, led by Melissa Hunt at Penn State’s psychology department, is the latter — which despite intense interest in this field and phenomenon is quite rare. The researchers only identified two other experimental studies, both of which only addressed Facebook use.

143 students from the school were monitored for three weeks after being assigned to either limit their social media use to about ten minutes per app (Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram) per day or continue using it as they normally would. They were monitored for a baseline before the experimental period and assessed weekly on a variety of standard tests for depression, social support, and so on. Social media usage was monitored via the iOS battery use screen, which shows app use.

The results are clear. As the paper, published in the latest Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, puts it:

The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.

Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.

It’s not the final word in this, however. Some scores did not see improvement, such as self-esteem and social support. And later follow-ups to see if feelings reverted or habit changes were less than temporary were limited because most of the subjects couldn’t be compelled to return. (Psychology, often summarized as “the study of undergraduates,” relies on student volunteers who have no reason to take part except for course credit, and once that’s given, they’re out.)

That said, it’s a straightforward causal link between limiting social media use and improving some aspects of emotional and social health. The exact nature of the link, however, is something at which Hunt could only speculate:

Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.

When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life.

The researchers acknowledge the limited nature of their study and suggest numerous directions for colleagues in the field to take it from here. A more diverse population, for instance, or including more social media platforms. Longer experimental times and comprehensive follow-ups well after the experiment would help as well.

The 30 minute limit was chosen as a conveniently measurable one but the team does not intend to say that it is by any means the “correct” amount. Perhaps half or twice as much time would yield similar or even better results, they suggest: “It may be that there is an optimal level of use (similar to a dose response curve) that could be determined.”

Until then, we can use common sense, Hunt suggested: “In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.”

Facebook connects Russia to 100+ accounts it removed ahead of mid-terms

The 115 accounts Facebook took down yesterday for inauthentic behavior ahead of the mid-term elections may indeed have been linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, according to a new statement from the company. It says that a site claiming association with the IRA today posted a list of Instagram accounts it had made which included many Facebook had taken down yesterday, and it also has since removed the rest. The IRA was previously llabeled as responsible for using Facebook to interfere with US politics and the 2016 Presidential election.

Facebook’s head of cyber security policy Nathaniel Gleicher issued this statement to TechCrunch:

“Last night, following a tip off from law enforcement, we blocked over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is banned from our services. This evening a website claiming to be associated with the IRA published a list of Instagram accounts they claim to have created. We had already blocked most of these accounts yesterday, and have now blocked the rest. This is a timely reminder that these bad actors won’t give up — and why it’s so important we work with the US government and other technology companies to stay ahead.”

Yesterday, Facebook had published that it would provide an update on whether the removed accounts were connected to Russia, as some were in Russian languages:

On Sunday evening, US law enforcement contacted us about online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe may be linked to foreign entities . . .  Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate . . . Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly. But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the US, we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today. Once we know more — including whether these accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities — we will update this post.”

Attribution of foreign interference into politics via social media can be difficult to accurately attribute, however. Facebook could have provided stronger wording in this update regarding its own evidence about the connection between Russia and the 80 Facebook accounts and 35 Instagram accounts it removed yesterday. Now with the mid-term results being counted, we’ll see if politicians or researchers suggest election interference could have influenced any of the results.