Facebook Photograph:( Reuters )
Facebook said that this network was managing a deceptive campaign across multiple social media platforms posing as independent news outlets. Facebook said it started its own probe after FBI tipped them off
Facebook said on Thursday that it had taken down network of hundreds of fake accounts and pages that targetted people in Ukraine. These accounts and pages were linked to indviduals who were previously sanctioned by the US for interfering in US elections.
Facebook said that this network was managing a deceptive campaign across multiple social media platforms posing as independent news outlets. Facebook said it started its own probe after FBI tipped them off.
Facebook attributed the activity to individuals and entities sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department including politician Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker who was blacklisted by the U.S. government in September over accusations he tried to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election won by President Joe Biden. Facebook said it removed Derkach's accounts in October 2020.
Reacting to the investigation, Derkach said big firms were building a "dictatorship in the name of liberal values" and that he was preparing to submit draft legislation to Ukraine's parliament to regulate global social media companies.
"I proceed from the fact that no one has the right to restrict basic human rights and freedoms. Neither Facebook nor the state," he said in a statement sent to Reuters on Friday.
Facebook also attributed the network to political consultants associated with Ukrainian politicians Oleh Kulinich and Volodymyr Groysman, Ukraine's former prime minister. Kulinich did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Groysman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Facebook said that as well as promoting these politicians, the network also pushed positive material about actors across the political spectrum. This was likely as a paid service.
"You can really think of these operators as would-be influence mercenaries, renting out inauthentic online support in Ukrainian political circles," Ben Nimmo, Facebook's global influence operations threat intelligence lead, said on a call with reporters.
Facebook's investigation team said Ukraine, which has been among the top sources of "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that it removes from the site, is home to an increasing number of influence operations selling services.
Facebook said it removed 363 pages. These pages were followed by 2.37 million accounts. In addition to these pages, 477 accounts have been removed.
The network also spent about $496,000 in Facebook and Instagram ads, Facebook said.
(With inputs from agencies)