The content in question was found to have breached Facebook policy by misleading readers and had been authored by Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned media brand which has regional editorial offices around the world including London, Edinburgh and Washington.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, explained: “Despite the misrepresentations of their identities, we found that these pages and accounts were linked to employees of Sputnik, a news agency based in Moscow, and that some of the pages frequently posted about topics like anti-Nato sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption.”
Sputnik, however, dismissed the action, declaring that the decision ‘is clearly political in its nature and, as a matter of fact, is practically censorship.’
Targeting former Soviet satellite states the pages sought to lure audiences with copied links to cats and cakes before occasionally posting a link to a slanted Sputnik news story, typically carrying a politized message such as the rising cost of food. Some of these were presented in the guise of an independent news service.
In total Facebook has expunged 289 pages and 75 separate accounts linked to the network, which has been operating since 2013 and collectively had around 790,000 followers.
In 2017 Facebook revealed that 'inauthentic' Russian accounts had spent $100k on adverts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.