Facebook said Thursday it had deep-sixed a Romania-based troll farm rife with accounts masquerading as Black Americans supporting President Trump.
The posts purported to be from a guy named David Adrian, who lived in Montana but also somehow simultaneously in Romania, NBC News reported. But the person was fictitious, with a stolen profile photo. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all removed accounts, NBC News said.
The disclosure came in Facebook’s monthly Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, begun to try and weed out misinformation that could skew elections and other important decisions.
The platform’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, emphasized that the accounts were shut down because of their behavior, not necessarily their content. The motive was not clear, Gleicher told NBC News, which first reported the takedown.
“We removed 35 Facebook accounts, three pages and 88 Instagram accounts for violating our policy against foreign interference, which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity,” Facebook said. “This activity originated in Romania and focused on the U.S.”
Those behind the network used fake accounts to pose as Americans, including some posing as President Trump fan pages, Facebook said.
“This network posted about U.S. domestic news and events, including the upcoming November election, the Trump campaign and support for the campaign by African Americans, conservative ideology, Christian beliefs, and QAnon,” Facebook said. “They also frequently reposted stories by American conservative news networks and the Trump campaign.”
QAnon is the conspiracy-theory network whose believers think Trump is pitted against a Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking, deep-state cult, as The Washington Post described it.
The activity was unearthed as part of Facebook’s internal investigation into “suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election in the U.S.,” the platform said. “About 1,600 accounts followed one or more of these pages, and around 7,200 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.”
In addition to that relatively small network, Facebook took out a slew of other accounts, pages, groups and Instagram accounts that were operating from numerous countries with activity linked to a digital media outfit called Truth Media, Facebook said.
This operation had links to the pro-Trump media organization Epoch Media Group, parent of The Epoch Times newspaper, NBC News reported.
Facebook removed 303 Facebook accounts, 181 Pages, 44 Groups and 31 Instagram accounts, followed by more than 2 million people in all and tied to the digital media outlet Truth Media, which often boosts Epoch Times content but which is banned from Facebook and affiliated platforms, NBC News said.
Those accounts posted about “ongoing U.S. protests and conspiracy theories about who is behind them,” Gleicher told NBC News. Some of them posted coronavirus misinformation.
Epoch Times publisher Stephen Gregory disavowed any connection with Truth Media, NBC News reported.
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