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Reddit just shut down nearly 1,000 Russian troll accounts

They made 14,000 posts and caused a splash in forums for Trump supporters.

 In this file photo taken on Sunday, April 19, 2015, a women enters the four-story building known as the “troll factory” in St. Petersburg, Russia. The U.S. government alleges the Internet Research Agency started interfering as early as 2014 in US politics, extending to the 2016 presidential election, saying the agency was funded by St. Petersburg businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin.
AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

Reddit has banned close to 1,000 accounts linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the troll farm that used social media to sow divisions in American politics during the 2016 elections.

The revelation comes as social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have come under fire for failing to crack down on propaganda efforts by the very same agency.

Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman said in a post on Tuesday that Reddit was closing 944 “suspicious accounts” that made a total of around 14,000 posts, but said “few” of them had a visible impact on the site.

Reddit, which calls itself “the front page of the internet,” allows users to post links and commentary in forums with anonymous accounts. Users can “upvote” one another’s posts, and the more upvotes a post gets, the more widely it’s seen by other users. Seventy-one of the IRA-linked accounts that Reddit has shuttered have more than 1,000 upvotes.

Russian influence on Reddit appears to come mainly in the form of content these troll accounts posted to the site, rather than paid advertising like they used on other sites such as Facebook.

“Our investigation did not find any election-related advertisements of the nature found on other platforms,” Huffman said. “We also did not detect any effective use of these accounts to engage in vote manipulation.”

Huffman said that IRA-linked accounts made 316 posts in the r/The_Donald subreddit, or forum, which is popular among Trump supporters.

One major IRA-linked account, known as “Rubinjer,” posted a pornographic video falsely claiming to feature Hillary Clinton. Rubinjer got more than 100,000 upvotes before it was shut down by Reddit and was influential in the r/The_Donald subreddit.

The Internet Research Agency has been all over US social media

The IRA is a shadowy operation based in St. Petersburg, Russia, that has been attempting to influence politics in foreign countries since at least 2013.

In February, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted more than a dozen people who worked at the IRA, accusing them of engaging in operations to interfere with US elections starting as early as 2014.

Most of what we know about the IRA’s influence in the 2016 election is tied to Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook told Congress that about 126 million Facebook users had seen Russian-linked content last fall. In December, the social media giant even rolled out a feature to help users figure out if they had interacted with content created by the IRA.

Twitter found more than 3,800 accounts linked to the IRA and alerted about 1.4 million US users that they may have interacted with Kremlin propaganda. Those accounts, now shut down, posted 176,000 tweets in the 10 weeks before the election.

Google has also found at least two accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency that spent $4,700 on an ad platform. The platform also detected 1,000 videos from Russian-linked accounts ahead of the election.

Jen Kirby contributed to this report.