Jan 18, 2020

Facebook removes pro-Trump pages defending GOP candidate Robert Hyde

Facebook logo. Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook removed "a network of several dozen Facebook pages" defending GOP congressional candidate and Trump donor Robert Hyde late on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports — months after Buzzfeed revealed 23 of the pages featuring pro-Trump content.

Why now: Facebook's choice to take down the pages coincides with the House Intelligence committee releasing documents apparently showing that Hyde suggested to Lev Parnas, associate of Rudy Giuliani, that he had former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch under physical surveillance in Kyiv.

  • Hyde also appears to text Parnas: "Can't believe Trum[p] hasn't fired this [b**ch]. I'll get right on that," after Parnas shared pictures and articles of Yovanovitch, according to House Intelligence documents.
  • Hyde did not respond to a Friday request for comment on materials released by House Democrats. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Details: Several of the Facebook pages — which had more than 120,000 collective likes — used the same contact information and details as Hyde’s Connecticut-based House campaign, per the WSJ. The pages also "described themselves as representing groups of supporters of President Trump from different states..."

  • On Friday, several of the Facebook pages shared a video of Hyde saying the texts disclosed by House Democrats shouldn't be taken seriously. "Like I have anybody over in Ukraine? Are you serious?” he said, per WSJ.
  • "Hyde said his texts to Mr. Parnas were a joke and that he didn’t monitor the ambassador’s movements," WSJ reports.
  • When Buzzfeed asked Hyde about his relationship to the Facebook pages in November, Hyde said: “I like positivity and like to follow all Trump media," then added in a follow-up message that he does not run the network pages.

The big picture: Facebook's policy "lets politicians make just about any claim they want, in ads or posts, including repeating verbatim a false claim that has already been labeled elsewhere as false," Axios' Scott Rosenberg reported last fall.

What they're saying: “When we find networks of Pages misleading people by concealing who controls them, we require those owners to show additional information. In this case, the necessary disclosure was not made, so per our policy, the Pages have been removed,” a Facebook spokesperson told WSJ.

Background: During her closed-door deposition before House impeachment committees, Yovanovitch testified that Giuliani steered the smear campaign that led to her firing. She also publicly testified that she felt threatened by Trump's mention of her in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Go deeper: New Lev Parnas records detail Ukraine surveillance efforts, contact with Devin Nunes aide

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