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Kremlin ‘Regrets’ Facebook's Removal Of Russian Media Accounts

The Kremlin says Facebook's removal of accounts controlled by Russian media was a hostile step that smacked of censorship.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, made the comments on April 5, days after Facebook announced it had deleted dozens of pages linked to a Russian "troll factory" accused of using social-media sites to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Asked whether the move was a manifestation of hostility and censorship, Peskov told a conference call with reporters, "Yes it is."

"We are of course following this and we regret it," he added.

Facebook said late on April 3 it had removed 70 Facebook accounts, 138 Facebook pages, and 65 Instagram accounts, 95 percent of which were in the Russian language.

The social-networking giant said the deleted accounts and pages had 1 million followers on Facebook and 500,000 on Instagram, mainly in Russia, Ukraine, and nearby countries such as Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.

It said many of the deleted articles and pages were posted by Russia-based Federal News Agency, known as FAN, which it said appears to be connected to a St. Petersburg "troll factory" known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

IRA was among three firms and 13 Russians indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller in February on charges they conspired to meddle in the 2016 election by spreading posts that supported U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign while disparaging his opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Russia has denied meddling in the election and Putin has said he will not extradite to the United States any of the individuals named in the Mueller indictment.

Facebook said it was rooting out anything on its networks connected to IRA, which it said sponsored pages during the 2016 election on hot-button U.S. political topics like immigration, border security, and police violence, taking a generally pro-Trump stance.

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, and Interfax
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