Zuckerberg@ (Adds Facebook CEO comments, context, paragraphs 9-12)
SAN FRANCISCO, April 3 (Reuters) - Facebook is expanding its response to what it sees as malicious actors using the platform improperly and on Tuesday said it had deleted hundreds of Russian accounts and pages associated with a "troll factory" indicted by U.S. prosecutors for fake activist and political posts in the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
Facebook said many of the deleted articles and pages came from Russia-based Federal News Agency, known as FAN, and that the social media company's security team had concluded that the agency was technologically and structurally intertwined with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency.
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told Reuters in an interview that the agency "has repeatedly acted to deceive people and manipulate people around the world, and we don't want them on Facebook anywhere."
The world's largest social media company is under pressure to improve its handling of data after disclosing that information about 50 million Facebook users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
The removal of accounts and pages are mainly in Russian and many had little political import, the company said. Previously the company had only taken down fake accounts and accounts spreading fake news.
The new policy will include otherwise legitimate content spread by those same actors, Zuckerberg said.
"It is clear from the evidence that we've collected that those organizations are controlled and operated by" the Internet Research Agency, he added.
In February, the agency along with two other firms and 13 Russians, was indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges it oversaw a criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper in the presidential campaign to support then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and disparage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Russian media organization RBC last year reported that FAN and the Internet Research Agency once shared the same street address and had other connections. One of the people that it said made decisions at FAN was indicted by Mueller's office, which is investigating U.S. intelligence agency conclusions that Moscow tried to undermine the democratic process. Russia denies interfering in the elections.
Facebook disclosed in September that Russians used Facebook to meddle in U.S. politics, posting on the social network under fake names in the months before and after the 2016 elections.
Zuckerberg and Facebook security officials said improved machine learning had helped find connections between the posts and the internet agency. They said they would do the same when they found legitimate content being pushed out by groups seen as manipulators.
"Were going to execute and operate under our principles," Zuckerberg said on Tuesday. "We dont allow people to have fake accounts, and if you repeatedly try to set up fake accounts to manipulate things, then our policy is to ban all of your accounts."
(Reporting by Joseph Menn and David Ingram; editing by Grant McCool)