Meta, previously known as Facebook allows Moldovan oligarch on US sanctions list to run anti-government Facebook ads allowed exiled Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor, who is on the US sanctions list for working with corrupt oligarchs and Moscow-based entities to create political unrest in Moldova, to run anti-government ads on the platform. Shor’s political party paid for the ads, which called for protests and uprisings against the pro-Western government, even though the government was not corrupt and working towards Moldova joining the EU. The ads were ultimately removed, but not before being seen by millions of people in the small nation of Moldova.
According to Dorin Frasineau, a foreign policy adviser to former Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita, whose resignation led to the formation of a new government, the ads were aimed at destabilizing Moldova and returning it to Russia’s sphere of influence. The ads sought to exploit anger over inflation and rising fuel prices in Moldova, and fueled angry protests against the government.
Rules governing the US sanctions list prohibit US companies from engaging in financial transactions with listed individuals and groups. While the US Treasury Department, which manages the sanctions program, declined to comment publicly when asked about the ads, Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, said it removed the posts as soon as it found them. However, despite Shor being on the US sanctions list, Felix Kartte, a senior adviser at Reset, a London-based nonprofit that researches social media’s impact on democracy, said that Facebook and Instagram continue to be weaponized by the Kremlin and Russian secret services.
The ads reveal how Russia and its allies have exploited lapses by social media platforms, like Facebook, to spread propaganda and disinformation that weaponizes economic and social insecurity in an attempt to undermine governments in Eastern Europe. Meta recently announced deep layoffs, but did not respond to questions about the size of its staff in Moldova or the number of employees who speak Moldovan.
Meta Facebook allows Moldovan oligarch, an exiled Moldovan oligarch on the US sanctions list to run anti-government ads on the platform, which were ultimately removed but not before being seen by millions of people in Moldova. The ads sought to destabilize Moldova and return it to Russia’s sphere of influence, and reveal how Russia and its allies have exploited lapses by social media platforms to spread propaganda and disinformation.