An online uproar sparked by a US journalist on Monday resulted in international social media platform Facebook’s swift banning of nine pages, including the Ukrainian-run page “I Love America,” which had over 1 million followers.
All of the pages, which are alleged to be associated in some way with “I Love America” based on their published content, were banned and became the subjects of an investigation, according to a report from the Washington Post.
“We are removing these pages for violating our policies against spam and fake accounts and are continuing to investigate for any further violations,” Facebook Policy Communications Manager Andy Stone told the outlet. The Post noted that Facebook also denies identifying links between the page’s managers and “any nation-state actor” during this part of its investigation.
It would appear that the social media website’s most recent statements, at least in regard to “I Love America,” present a stark contrast to previous feedback provided.
According to Judd Legum, the journalist who highlighted the page’s operators, Facebook had previously stated that “I Love America” did not violate its current policies, including those related to what it had termed “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” It’s unclear what changed some eight hours after Legum’s report gained traction online.
While Legum’s report was presented via his Twitter page as some sort of exposé of Facebook’s lack of accountability, information pertaining to the locations of “I Love America” managers was publicly accessible on the main page’s “Page Transparency” section.
Though Facebook offers pages the option to submit a request to have their managers’ locations hidden, that action was not taken by this page.
It’s also worth noting the pro-Trump, Ukrainian-run page had been active since 2017 and only changed its name over the years to correct capitalization. Despite Facebook having all this knowledge of the account, its 1.1 million followers and its wide audience reach - that Legum claims outperformed that of the New York Times and Washington Post’s pages combined - action was not previously taken against the page.
One reason behind the abrupt action could be Facebook’s fear of federal regulations, based on the journalist framing “I Love America” and associated pages as part of an operation “MUCH BIGGER” than that of the Internet Research Agency, the Russian firm that was accused in the Mueller report of using social media to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.