Facebook removes bot network that interfered with Ukrainian elections, with $2.1M spent on advertising

Facebook has removed 46 accounts, 44 pages, and 1 Facebook group, as well as three Instagram accounts for violating the company’s policy on coordinated inauthentic behavior.

According to the Facebook press office, the network has been spreading comments supporting Yulia Tymoshenko and the party Batkivshchyna and criticizing their political opponents, with $2.1 million spent on advertising.

The network’s activity

The network was using fake accounts, some of which have been identified and deactivated by Facebook automated systems. Its members were creating pages for fictitious persons, commenting publications by other users, posting messages in groups, and managing pages; oftentimes, they positioned themselves as local news media.

“This network was spreading news and information about current events in Ukraine connected with politics and elections, mainly in the Ukrainian language. Among them were comments supporting Yulia Tymoshenko and the party Batkivshchyna and criticizing their political opponents: the president Volodymyr Zelensky and the ex-president Petro Poroshenko,” a statement by Facebook says.

Their activities were mainly focused on the recent elections: both presidential and parliamentary in 2019, and local elections in 2020. Facebook disclosed this network as part of its investigation into suspicions of coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. Public complaints helped to uncover it.

“Although the people behind this activity tried to hide their identity, the investigation revealed that they were connected to MAS Agency, an advertising agency in Ukraine, and individuals involved with Yulia Tymoshenko’s campaign and the political party Batkivshchyna,” Facebook said.

The network’s size

According to the company, about $2.1 million was spent to advertise the network. The total audience reached by the network was about 889,000 users.

General information about the removed network:

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 46 accounts, 44 pages, and 1 group on Facebook; 3 accounts on Instagram.
  • Readers: About 889,000 followers of one or more Facebook pages and about 1,500 people followed one or more of these accounts on Instagram.
  • Advertising: About $2.1 million was spent on advertising on Facebook and Instagram, mostly paid in dollars.