Facebook deletes hundreds of fake groups created by staff at Kremlin media outlet
On January 17, the head of Facebook’s Cybersecurity Policy announced the removal of 364 pages and accounts that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Europe. According to Facebook, the administrators and account owners represented themselves as independent news pages and general-interest pages, but were really “linked to employees” of the Russian media agency Sputnik, frequently posting about topics like “anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and corruption.”
Apparently, seven of the targeted Facebook pages belonged to Sputnik’s foreign newsrooms. In a public statement on Thursday, the Russian state media agency said Facebook's decision is “unequivocally political censorship.”
Separately, Facebook also removed another 107 pages, groups, and accounts — plus 41 Instagram accounts — for similar “inauthentic behavior” originating in Russia and operating in Ukraine. This Ukraine-focused activity “shared characteristics” with previous activity by St. Petersburg’s infamous “troll factory,” the Internet Research Agency.
This isn't the first time Facebook has deleted content originating in Russia. In April 2018, the company removed dozens of pages and accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency and Federal News Agency, both of which have been connected to catering tycoon and private military company owner Evgeny Prigozhin. In July 2018, Facebook removed more Russian accounts that allegedly tried to influence American voters during the 2016 presidential election. In August, the social network deleted another several hundred pages linked to Russia and Iran.