Facebook deletes 400 Ukrainian pages, groups, accounts linked to PR agency Pragmatico for manipulating public opinion
Facebook has issued a statement on the removal of a significant number of pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram (which was acquired by Facebook in 2012), including the pages of the resources Hyser, Znaj.ua and Politeka.
"We also removed 168 accounts, 149 Facebook Pages and 79 Groups for engaging in domestic-focused coordinated inauthentic behavior in Ukraine…Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review linked this activity to Pragmatico, a Ukrainian PR firm," Facebook said.
According to the data disclosed by Facebook, almost 4.2 million accounts were subscribed to one or more of these pages, about 401,000 accounts joined one of these groups.
About $1.6 million was spent on advertising these resources on Facebook and Instagram, which was paid in US dollars.
These accounts were identified in an internal investigation into suspected coordinated misconduct in the region.
A significant part of the remaining pages in a subset of deletions is associated with the online news aggregators Znaj.ua and Politeka.Net owned by the Znaj news agency, whose charter fund is only UAH 1,000. The beneficial owner of the Znaj agency, and also Ukrainian Stena LLC (publishing) and Budni Media (production of film and video films, television programs), is Anton Fedchenko, registered in Lozova (Kharkiv region).
Facebook said the people behind the coordinated activities of the pages used fake accounts to increase engagement, distribute content and direct people to external sites that pretended to be news media.
"The page administrators and account holders, as a rule, published information about celebrities, show business, sports, local and international news, political and economic issues (in particular, about the elections in Ukraine) and also criticized various public figures.
In the analysis, Facebook discovered two independent from each other groups of public opinion manipulation operations, which were conducted from Ukraine and Iraq.