Facebook removes 'coordinated' posts backing ex-marine implicated in Ukraine plot

Phil Thomas

Facebook has removed a series of apparently coordinated posts defending Robert Hyde, a Republican candidate for congress who has been implicated in the Ukraine scandal that led to Donald Trump being impeached.

Last week Lev Parnas, a business associate of Mr Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, said Mr Hyde had claimed to be carrying out surveillance on the then US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Ms Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from her post after apparently getting in the way of a secret scheme by Mr Giuliani, Mr Parnas and others to pressure the Ukrainian president into announcing investigations into Mr Trump’s Democratic rivals.

Mr Hyde, a former US Marine, has denied that he was keeping Ms Yovanovitch under surveillance ahead of her recall, saying his texts were just a joke.

A series of posts defending Mr Hyde has now been removed from Facebook after doubts emerged about whether they came from Trump supporters from around the country as claimed, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In a statement to the paper, Facebook said: “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.”

The pages had previously hosted a series of comments backing Mr Hyde’s run for a congressional seat in Connecticut. Mr Hyde denied being behind the pages in November when they were first highlighted by Buzzfeed.

Last month Mr Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for abuse of power over the Ukraine plot, in which he apparently withheld military aid and a White House invitation until Kiev announced the investigations.

He is also accused of obstruction for ordering staff not to give evidence and refusing to hand over relevant documents.

This week the Senate will begin a trial of Mr Trump which in theory could see him removed from power, although this is unlikely since the upper chamber is controlled by his fellow Republicans.

The president insists he has done nothing wrong and that the impeachment proceedings are a Democratic ploy to stop him winning re-election in November.

Mr Parnas said he did not believe Mr Hyde was keeping Ms Yovanovitch under surveillance, saying he thought he was boasting and adding that he did not believe he had ever seen him sober.

However, Ukraine said last week that it was launching an investigation into the claims.

Facebook has faced criticism for refusing to commit to fact-checking political ads.

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