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By Rebecca Ballhaus and Emily Glazer
Robert Hyde, a GOP congressional candidate who has become embroiled in the impeachment investigation, on Saturday said he had been operating Facebook pages displaying posts in his defense while purporting to be run by groups of Trump supporters in different states.
After The Wall Street Journal reported on the pages' apparent connection to Mr. Hyde, Facebook Inc. late Friday took them down. A Facebook spokeswoman said when the company finds networks of pages misleading people by concealing who is behind them, it requires owners to show additional information.
Mr. Hyde didn't respond Friday to Journal requests for comment, but he tweeted a public response Saturday.
"WTF Facebook?! Please make this right and return our pages. I and other editors put a lot of time and money into these pages. You didn't give us a deadline for the disclaimer and you said it was only necessary for and if we wanted to boost," Mr. Hyde tweeted on Saturday, and linked to the Journal's article. Boosting is when a Facebook user pays to reach new audiences.
"We haven't boosted in two years. No warning, nothing," Mr. Hyde continued. "Do you all work for Adam Schiff? #facebook #stoleourpages #theft"
Mr. Schiff is the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Last year, when BuzzFeed News reported that at least 23 of the pro-Trump pages linked to Mr. Hyde spread a meme about Mr. Schiff that said "Lock up Adam Schiff for treason," Mr. Hyde told BuzzFeed he didn't run the pages. His tweets Saturday marked his first public comments confirming he operated them.
Mr. Hyde, a landscaper in Connecticut, is one of several candidates vying to be the Republican nominee to run against incumbent Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes. The Connecticut GOP chairman has called for Mr. Hyde to end his campaign.
After House Democrats released text messages this week between Mr. Hyde and Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, that suggested Mr. Hyde was monitoring the movements of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the Facebook pages began sharing posts from Mr. Hyde's campaign page in which he defended his actions, an analysis by the social-media intelligence company Storyful showed. Storyful is owned by News Corp, parent of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones.
Facebook's move was one of its most high-profile attempts to combat inauthentic behavior by domestic actors on its platform, which is a violation of its policies.
Facebook says it has worked with government partners, tech platforms and others in efforts to make it more difficult for bad actors to use fake accounts to manipulate the flow of information. The company said it has stopped 50 of those such networks over the past year. It has also built out transparency tools to enable researchers and the public to report suspicious activity.
In November it introduced a new policy to require more accountability for pages, including boosting transparency and investing more in technology and people. If Facebook finds a page is misleading people about its purpose by concealing ownership, it will require an additional business verification process. For the page to remain up, Facebook says it also requires more information on the page about who is behind it, including the organization's legal name and verified city, phone number or website. It allows time to respond to provide the information but if people fail to comply, the pages will be removed.
Facebook says its enforcement of this policy will adapt over time, similar to other policies, so it can enable great transparency.
Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Emily Glazer at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 18, 2020 17:28 ET (22:28 GMT)
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