Facebook suspends Russian-backed pages targeting American millennials: report

Facebook has reportedly suspended pages that targeted millennials and garnered tens of millions of video views after it was revealed the accounts were backed by the Kremlin.

The social media behemoth suspended the pages Friday and said it would ask administrators to disclose their Russian affiliations, according to CNN.

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The pages are run by Maffick Media, whose majority stakeholder is Ruptly, a subsidiary of Kremlin-funded RT. While the company has hired contractors in Los Angeles, the company is registered in Germany, CNN reported.

The suspension was an unusual move for Facebook, which does not require users to provide information about parent companies. However, it is taking steps to increase transparency around page administrators and tackle covert government-supported information from making its way onto the website.

The social media company faced intense scrutiny after it was revealed Moscow directed a complex misinformation campaign on Facebook and other platforms.

“People connecting with Pages shouldn't be misled about who’s behind them. Just as we’ve stepped up our enforcement of coordinated inauthentic behavior and financially motivated spam over the past year, we’ll continue improving so people can get more information about the Pages they follow,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

Maffick COO J. Ray Sparks told CNN before the suspension the company is editorially independent of RT and said its “standard business practice” is not to disclose the people or companies behind a page.

“The general audience never is interested in these things and the standard practice is simply not mention them, because the audience is not interested,” he said.

The company operates three pages on Facebook: Soapbox, which discusses current affairs, the environmental channel Waste-Ed and Backthen, a history channel that often discusses what it describes as western imperialism.

CNN noted that the channels collectively have more than 30 million video views.

Company records reviewed by CNN show that Ruptly owns 51 percent of the company, while former RT presenter and Maffick CEO Anissa Naouai owns the remaining 49 percent.

Facebook also suspended In the Now, another millennial-focused channel that was anchored by Naouai. It was formerly a show on RT, which a 2017 report from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence called a “principal international propaganda outlet” for the Kremlin.