Facebook said it has taken down a network of “coordinated, inauthentic” Ukrainian social-media pages tied to a digital advertising agency in the nation’s capital as it seeks to combat the spread of disinformation.
The U.S.-based social-media giant said in a July 8 statement that the Ukrainian network aimed its work at a domestic audience and was “particularly active” during the nation’s 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Facebook tied the inauthentic activity to Postmen DA, whose clients have included the European Union Advisory Mission, Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, and DTEK, an energy company owned by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man.
However, Facebook did not indicate that the network favored certain candidates or parties, saying its work both criticized and supported presidential candidates Volodmyr Zelenskiy, Petro Poroshenko, and Yulia Tymoshenko.
Zelenskiy won the April 2019 election in a landslide, defeating incumbent Poroshenko. Tymoshenko did not qualify for the April runoff.
The network ran a Facebook page called “Stop Yulia” that featured a post of the politician relaxing on a couch with five dark-skinned men in white underwear behind her.
A post on the “Goat” page showed a picture of Zelenskiy’s face being flushed down a toilet.
The Kyiv-based Postmen DA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook said it removed 72 Facebook accounts, 35 pages, and 13 Instagram accounts belonging to the network. It said about 766,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages and about 3,800 people followed at least one of the Instagram accounts.
Postmen DA spent nearly $2 million to advertise its posts.
The Ukrainian network was one of four that Facebook said it had taken down.
The U.S. company has come under intense pressure from governments, political parties, and civil organizations to fight disinformation and hate on its platform, which has more than 2 billion members.
Facebook Takes Down 'Inauthentic' Social-Media Pages Connected To Ukraine Ad Agency