A Russian influence operation posed as an independent news outlet to target left-wing voters in the United States and Britain, Facebook says.
The ploy included recruiting freelance journalists to write about domestic politics.
Facebook Inc said on Tuesday the operation – which partly focused on US politics and racial tensions in the run-up to the November 3 presidential election – centred around a pseudo media organisation called Peace Data.
The website operated 13 Facebook accounts and two pages, set up in May and suspended on Monday for using fake identities and other forms of “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour”, the company said.
Facebook said its investigation “found links to individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency”, a St Petersburg-based company US intelligence officials say was central to Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election.
Twitter said it had also suspended five accounts as part of the operation which it could “reliably attribute to Russian state actors”.
Peace Data did not respond to a request for comment and Russian officials were not immediately available.
Russia has previously denied US allegations of trying to sway elections and says it does not interfere in the domestic politics of other countries.
Investigators at social media analytics firm Graphika studied the operation and said Peace Data predominately targeted progressive and left-wing groups in the United States and Britain but also posted about events elsewhere including Algeria and Egypt.
It said in a report the website pushed messages critical of right-wing voices and the centre left, and in the United States “paid particular attention to racial and political tensions”, including civil rights protests and criticism of President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Graphika said only around 5 per cent of Peace Data’s English-language articles directly concerned the US election but “this facet of the operation suggests an attempt to build a left-wing audience and steer it away from Biden’s campaign”.
The findings support an assessment by the United States’ top counterintelligence official last month, who said Moscow was using online disinformation to try to undercut the Biden campaign and could stoke fears about further Russian efforts to interfere in the November vote.
A spokesman for the Trump campaign said the president would win re-election “fair and square and we don’t need or want any foreign interference”.
The FBI said in a statement it had flagged the activity to Facebook.