The social media giant Facebook has removed 350 pages and accounts which represented themselves as news sites but were managed by employees at Russian news agency Sputnik.
The move is a latest in a series of measures undertaken by Facebook preventing Russian disinformation. These pages and accounts were making regular posts on topics like anti-NATO sentiment and protest movements. The pages were also found following a tip from U.S. law enforcement.
With a reach of 800,000 followers, the ad spent from these accounts was in tune of U.S. $ 135,000 since October 2013. The pages promoted almost 200 events. They were operated from 2 networks. One network operated in countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The another one was active in Ukraine.
One of the admins of these fake pages posed as a woman living in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which helps Facebook identify fake accounts, investigated the matter and found out that the profile photograph was taken from a Swedish model’s social media accounts.
However, Sputnik has said that Facebook’s action is practically censorship. An official statement said, “The decision is clearly political in its nature and is practically censorship — seven [Facebook] pages belonging to our news hubs in neighbouring countries have been blocked.”
“Sputnik editorial offices deal with news and they do it well. If this blocking is Facebook’s only reaction to the quality of the media’s work, then we have no questions, everything is clear here. There is still hope that common sense will prevail,” the statement continued.