3 pages publishing viral videos suspended by Facebook for alleged Russian ties

MANILA, Philippines – Facebook last Friday, February 15, suspended 3 online video channels from its platform for alleged links to the Russian government, as reported by CNN.

The channels in question – Soapbox, Waste-Ed, and Backthen – are reportedly run by Maffick Media, whose major stakeholder is Ruptly, a subsidiary of RT. RT was dubbed as "Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet” by a 2017 US Intelligence report.

Despite previously not requiring users to provide information about their parent companies, Facebook has asked the 3 pages to disclose their affiliation with Maffick Media in order to get back on the platform.

"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 wrote in a statement.

The report adds that each channel focuses on a specific subject for discussion: Soapbox for current affairs, Waste-Ed for the environment , and Backthen for history, which also included views on Western Imperialism.

Maffick Media since September last year hired up to a dozen contractors and freelancers in Los Angeles to help produce the channels’ videos. The company, however, is registered in Germany, not in the US.

Videos from all 3 channels have over 30 million views combined.

Rania Khalek, who hosts some of Soapbox’s videos, told CNN that no one in the Russian government has control of her work.

“I can choose my own topics, write my own scripts, and produce my own content without input from anybody else,” she said.

Maffick's chief operating officer, J. Ray Sparks, similarly said the company is editorially independent of their parent company RT and said they do not need to disclose this information because “the audience is not interested”.

Bret Schafer, a social media analyst at the German Marshall Fund, points out that he believes people have no idea where information from these types of content are coming from, which is why he thinks it’s important to clearly label them. – Rappler.com