On Monday morning, Popular Information revealed that the "I Love America" Facebook page, which boasted over 1.1 million followers, was run by people in Ukraine. It was part of a vast network of Ukrainian-run pages, including several that focused on cute dogs and Jesus, that had recently begun pushing pro-Trump propaganda on unsuspecting Americans. The reach of these Ukrainian pages was extraordinary, equaling the Facebook audience of the Washington Post and the New York Times combined.
Eight hours after the report was published, Facebook took down all of these pages.
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Inauthentic online political content is a threat to the integrity of the democratic system. It may have played a decisive factor in 2016, which came down to a few thousand votes in key states. Facebook, despite its vast resources, does not appear to have an effective strategy to root out bad actors.
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The Washington Post picked up the story and noted how the public reaction to yesterday's piece drove Facebook to act:
Facebook took action against the page — which had 1.1 million followers — and several affiliated ones after a report in Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter, detailed the page’s Ukrainian management and remarkable reach. The report said “I Love America” was founded in 2017 but had moved heavily into pro-Trump content and conservative memes in recent weeks, building a huge audience in the process...
Facebook initially did not act against “I Love America,” according to Popular Information, which quoted the company saying that it didn’t violate the platform’s rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” After the story spread widely on Monday, Facebook removed the page, citing alleged violations of its policies against spam and fake accounts.
The scale of these companies is extraordinary, and their impact on politics is frightening. But facts and an informed public can still make a difference.
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