Facebook bans troll farm running fake pro-Trump accounts like ‘BlackPeopleVoteForTrump’
Here come the fake social media accounts trying to sway the 2020 U.S. election.
A foreign troll farm masquerading as African-American supporters of President Donald Trump was kicked off Facebook on Thursday. The troll farm, which has been traced back to Romania, was linked to hundreds of pro-Trump accounts, according to NBC News.
Examples of the deleted accounts include Facebook's "We Love Our President" page and the Instagram account “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump."
According to Facebook, the accounts were removed based on “behavior, not content.” This means that the troll farm ran afoul of the social media giant’s rules on coordinated inauthentic behavior. These rules forbid users from doing things such as setting up fake accounts in order to game Facebook’s algorithm to promote their content.
With the U.S. presidential election just about three months away, it’s not surprising that online trolls and bad actors would seek to take advantage of the tense political season. However, one worrying aspect revealed by Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, is that it did not appear as if this foreign troll campaign was financially motivated. The social network says it's currently unclear as to what drove the actors behind the accounts.
Facebook also revealed to NBC News that it has removed 303 Facebook accounts, 181 Facebook pages, 44 Facebook groups, and 31 Instagram accounts linked to Epoch Media Group. The organization is best known for its news outlet: The Epoch Times, a right wing, pro-Trump newspaper.
According to Facebook, the accounts ultimately led back to a digital media group called TruthMedia. Accounts connected to TruthMedia posted content ranging from coronavirus misinformation to conspiracy theories surrounding U.S. protest movements. Specific TruthMedia accounts had previously been removed for violating Facebook's content policies prior the social media company's takedown of the entire network.
In response to the story, Stephen Gregory, publisher of the U.S. editions of The Epoch Times, said in a written statement, "The Epoch Times and Epoch Media Group are not in any way linked or related with Truth Media, nor do we have any involvement in any operation of Truth Media."
Just last month, Facebook removed a network of pages and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that were tied to Trump confidante Roger Stone and the far-right Proud Boys group. A few months before that, Facebook announced that it had taken down a network of pages and accounts connected to the right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy group, QAnon.
There appears to be a pattern with the types of accounts and networks breaking Facebook’s rules. Expect this behavior to only ramp up as we get closer and closer to election day on November 3.