Russia is backing a viral video company aimed at American millennials

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.

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.

"People connecting with Pages shouldn't be misled about who's behind them. Just as we've stepped up our enforcement of coordinated inauthentic behavior and financially motivated spam over the past year, we'll continue improving so people can get more information about the Pages they follow," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

CNN spoke to representatives from Maffick before Facebook suspended the pages. Maffick's chief operating officer, J. Ray Sparks said Maffick is editorially independent of RT and claimed that it was "standard business practice" not to disclose ownership of a Facebook page. "The general audience never is interested in these things and the standard practice is simply not mention them, because the audience is not interested," he said.

CNN reached out to the company for comment after the suspension, but did not immediately hear back. 

Like RT, Maffick's videos are generally critical of U.S. foreign policy and the mainstream American media, while largely avoiding criticism of the Russian government. Much of its content, like much of RT's in the US, fits comfortably within fairly mainstream American politics, especially on the left.

A typical tactic of Russian information operations in the US over the past few years has been to try to exploit existing divisions and tensions in the country. When covering and broadcasting in the US, RT has typically not injected some new line of criticism about the country into the discourse; instead it has reflected criticism of the US and the US government's actions at home and abroad that already existed — and that some people argue deserves more attention from the mainstream media.