The Margin: Facebook shuts several pro-Trump pages that were managed by Ukrainians

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Facebook said Monday it has shut several pages for serving up questionable pro-Trump memes after a story about how the propaganda that was ubiquitous across the internet in 2016 had recently begun popping up all over social media.

According to the Popular Information newsletter, the “I Love America” Facebook page, with its 1.1 million fans, was cited as spreading the kind of viral content that red-blooded Americans typically can’t resist: veterans, flags, guns, God and, yes, cute puppies. Lots of cute little puppies.

Lately, the page had started serving up more Trump than usual, which makes the fact that, according to Popular Information, it is managed by 10 people based in Ukraine all that more timely, in light of the recent headlines.

“I Love America” regularly recycled the same memes used by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the entity that set up fake Facebook FB, -1.67% pages to boost Trump in the 2016 election, reports Popular Information’s Judd Legum, who founded the left-leaning ThinkProgress website back in 2005.

Here are just a few of the posts:

“The ‘I Love America’ page is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a complex network of Facebook pages, all managed by people in Ukraine,” Legum wrote in his report. “These pages are now being used to funnel large audiences to pro-Trump propaganda.” Some of those pages include “Click Like, if you love Donald Trump as much as we do. TRUMP 2020,” “God bless Donald Trump and God bless America,” and “God bless Donald and Melania Trump and God bless America.”

And, through sites like these, Americans get exposed to adorable animal images along with a steady stream of manipulated content and misinformation relating to the 2020 election. This isn’t just a bit of exposure, either.

Popular Information found that “I Love America” reaches more people than nearly all U.S. media companies. For example, according to Crowdtangle, the page has more engagement over the last 90 days than USA Today and easily tops the likes of the L.A. Times and BuzzFeed News. In fact, the newsletter estimates that the entire Ukrainian network has as much reach as the New York Times NYT, -0.48% and Washington Post combined.

Here’s Legum’s Twitter thread on the story:

Facebook told MarketWatch it has shut down the aforementioned pages but said that there’s no evidence that they are linked to state actors.

“We are removing these pages for violating our policies against spam and fake accounts, and are continuing to investigate for any further violations,” Facebook spokesman Joe Osbourne said.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to grapple with the latest controversy swirling around the White House. The president suggested on Sunday that he talked about Joe and Hunter Biden with Ukraine’s new leader, as Democrats pushed for investigations into whether Trump improperly tried to use his position to dig up damaging information about a political rival.