CNN interviews ASD’s Social Media Analyst Brett Schafer on Maffick Media.
Three online video channels designed to appeal to millennials have collected tens of millions of views on Facebook since September. But the pages pushing the videos do not disclose that they are backed by the Russian government.
The pages are run by Maffick Media, a company whose majority stakeholder is Ruptly, a subsidiary of RT, which is funded by the Russian government. Although Maffick Media has hired contractors and freelancers in Los Angeles in recent months, the company is not registered in the US, it is registered in Germany. Facebook suspended the pages on Friday, saying it would reach out to the people running them to ask that they disclose where the pages are run from and their affiliation with their parent company in order to get back on the platform. The move was an unusual one for Facebook. The company does not require users to provide information about parent companies, but it is rolling out ways to try to increase transparency about who runs popular Facebook pages, and it has been taking aggressive steps to tackle covert government-backed information operations on its service. In 2016, a Kremlin-linked troll group ran a network of pages designed to look like they were operated by real American activists. The Maffick Media pages appear to have fallen into a gray area for Facebook. The pages do not include information about their links to the Russian government, but they were not previously required to.