More than 500 pages have been removed by Facebook as part of a purge to tackle fake news in Central and Eastern Europe.
The pages, which have been accused of spreading misinformation, had more than 900,000 followers and have spent more than £120,000 on advertisements.
Facebook said the accounts were connected to Russian state organisations already known to produce and circulate fake news.
Fake News Takedown
Two separate campaigns “engaging in co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” were shut down as part of the operation, Facebook said.
The majority of pages and accounts were located in Russia and were targeting social media users across most regions in Eastern Europe. Organisations running these networks are alleged to have posed as independent news sources, publishing content on a range of topics and issues other than politics or current affairs.
Investigations found that many people behind the accounts and pages also worked for Russian news agency Sputnik.
The information being spread, as well as the tactics employed by these pages, possessed “shared characteristics” with campaigns organised by the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency.
The agency has previously been described as a “troll farm” with close links to the Putin regime by the US Government.
In February 2018, 13 employees of the agency were indicted and charged in the US for fake news operations during the 2016 US presidential election.
Facebook was assisted by a number of police services and technology groups as part of its investigation, the firm said in a statement.
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, commented: “We’re taking down these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they post.
“In these cases, the people behind this activity co-ordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”