Facebook Is Still Letting Russia Interfere in Politics
Russian-backed political ads subvert Moldova's democratic process
Nicolae Fratea is on a mission to purge his Facebook timeline of weird political adverts. Every couple of days, he's presented with accounts that, on the surface, look innocent—they often share the same innocuous profile picture of a cathedral in Chisinau, Moldova. But when he scrolls past, these pages present him with what he describes as "soft propaganda," trying to entice him to join anti-government protests.
The ads echo the political messages of Ilan Shor, a sanctioned politician and businessman with deep links to the Kremlin, who has been accused by the US government of trying to destabilize Moldova on behalf of Russia. On Sunday, these ads helped promote Moldova’s most recent anti-government rally in the capital, Chinasu, which was attended by thousands of people.
A video editor by day, Fratea now spends his evenings sleuthing for information on the shadowy Facebook pages that deliver these adverts. "What all these pages have in common is the fact they promote Shor's parties, his agenda and his news channels," said the 38-year-old, who works for the news channel Jurnal TV. When he sees them, he leaves a review to warn others. His most recent reads: "Fake account! Fake page!" He also reports them to Facebook. But in 90 percent of cases, he said, the platform replies telling him everything looks normal.
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