Facebook is letting a major network of Ukrainian-run pages push pro-Trump propaganda by posing as U.S. meme pages.
According to a report from Judd Legum, a popular Facebook meme page with over 1 million page likes called “I Love America” is largely run by moderators located in Ukraine. The page regularly recycles propaganda from the Russian Internet Research Agency and pro-Trump posts that contains false information.
Legum noted that “I Love America” earned more Facebook interactions than some pages affiliated with national U.S. news outlets that have much larger followings, such as USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, and BuzzFeed News. “I Love America” is connected to other Ukrainian-run meme pages that each target different specific interests, including animals, Christianity, U.S. patriotism, and Trump, and pages in the “I Love America” network often cross-posted pro-Trump propaganda from other pages within the network:
These pro-Trump memes are cross-posted from several explicitly pro-Trump pages, with names like “God bless Donald and Melania Trump and God bless America.” All of these pages, which were created in the last few months, are managed exclusively by people based out of Ukraine.
But 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, that collect large audiences by posting memes about patriotism, Jesus, and cute dogs. These pages are now being used to funnel large audiences to pro-Trump propaganda. The pages have also joined political Facebook groups and are active on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Facebook has previously banned political pages in coordinated networks for violating Facebook’s policies on spam. In October, Facebook removed multiple U.S.-run disinformation networks -- including two major right-wing meme page networks -- for amplifying “false and misleading content in a coordinated fashion.” Some content recycled by this Ukrainian-run network originally came from
However, despite the “I Love America” network’s seemingly coordinated amplification of propaganda from banned Russian disinformation pages, Facebook has reportedly decided to allow these Ukrainian-run pages to continue to amplify false political information and pose as legitimate U.S.-run accounts. Legum and The New School professor David Carroll pointed out that Facebook’s inaction is a distressing signal as the 2020 election approaches.
Facebook promised this would not happen again. “In 2016, we were not prepared for the coordinated information operations we now regularly face. But we have learned a lot since then and have developed sophisticated systems that combine technology and people to prevent election interference on our services,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in 2018.
While there is no indication that the Ukrainian network of Facebook pages is backed by any government, they are exposing Americans to a flood of inauthentic and manipulative content related to the 2020 election.
David Carroll, a professor at The New School and an expert in social media, called the existence of the Ukrainian network “troubling” and said it suggests Facebook has “not decided to use their own detection technology to prevent further dissemination by ‘inauthentic coordination.’”
As previous Media Matters studies have shown, partisan pages that post about U.S. news consistently out-perform U.S. news pages without political affiliation. Another Media Matters study on Facebook interaction rates found that right-wing meme pages on average perform four times better than pages that do not have a political alignment.