Facebook says it has deleted 168 accounts, 149 pages, and 79 groups based in Ukraine for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” its head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a September 16 statement.
He emphasized the reason behind the removals was “not the content they posted.”
Gleicher said the “people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis of our action.”
Some groups and pages in Ukraine “changed their names over time,” and to increase engagement, they disseminated content and drove “people to off-platform sites posing as news outlets.”
The social-media platform concluded that the activity in Ukraine was linked to Pragmatico, a Ukrainian public-relations firm.
Two Ukrainian news outlets whose accounts were deleted protested Facebook’s move.
Znaj.ua and Politeka countered that certain politicians wanted to limit freedom of speech through Facebook.
In a September 17 statement on its website, Znaj.ua said that every “member of its team can verify their identity, has passports, and is a living person, not virtual.”
Similarly, Politeka said its team was composed of “journalists and programmers, search-engine-optimization experts, and content managers — this is a huge team, every one of whom can verify their identity.”
Facebook also said that 4.2 million accounts joined at least one of the 79 Ukrainian groups that were deleted and that about $1.6 million was spent on Facebook and Instagram advertisements paid for in U.S. dollars.