Early Thursday, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of Cybersecurity Policy, announced the social media giant removed hundreds of fake pages and profiles on both Facebook and Instagram that misrepresented themselves as independent new outlets and individuals. Many of these fake news outlet pages were linked directly back to Russia’s state-owned news agency, Sputnik.
“Today we removed multiple Pages, Groups, and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. The two operations we found originated in Russia, and one was active in a variety of countries, while the other was specific to Ukraine,” Gleicher wrote.
Although Russian influence campaigns have only recently become the subject of widespread discussion within American media, Moscow’s narrative-controlling efforts actually date back well into the Cold War. For instance, after the Kennedy assassination, Moscow used small, state-owned media outlets to report the CIA may have been involved in the president’s murder–just so those stories could be cited by larger outlets. This created a credibility feedback loop easily mistaken as legitimate reporting. Now, Moscow uses a similar methodology, creating at least 364 fake news pages and accounts, with a total following greater than 800,000 people.
The focus of many of these pages, Facebook said, were campaigns in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Moldova–with a large emphasis placed on anti-NATO sentiments.