Facebook removes fake accounts linked to conservative group
Facebook has removed 276 accounts that used fake profiles to impersonate right-wing Americans and comment on news articles, often on behalf of President Donald Trump, the company said Thursday.
The platform also permanently banned an Arizona-based digital communications company allegedly behind the fake accounts.
The move was prompted by a report in the Washington Post last month that a pro-Trump group called Turning Point Action is paying teenagers to post coordinated, supportive messages in violation of Facebook rules.
Facebook and Twitter have regularly removed fake accounts, both domestically and internationally, trying to fit into US political discourse and influence elections. However, social enterprises face greater threats from misinformation and voter repression, sometimes emanating from President Donald Trump himself.
The last network to remove Facebook became active prior to the 2018 midterm elections and remained dormant until June, when reports on topics such as the coronavirus pandemic, criticism of the Democratic Party and its candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, and praise for were released became Trump and other Republicans.
People behind the accounts used photos to create fake profiles, many of which were removed by Facebook's automated detection software. Facebook found that the accounts were coordinated by Rally Forge, an Arizona-based company.
"Although the people behind this network tried to hide their identity and coordination, our investigation has linked this activity to Rally Forge," said Facebook.
While Facebook's investigation cited the work of Rally Forge for Turning Point USA, the work was actually carried out on behalf of Turning Point Action, an independent political action committee, according to a statement from the organization. Turning Point Action added that it will work with Facebook to "correct misunderstandings".
Turning Point Action was founded last year by Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that recruits college students to campaign for conservative causes. The group posts memes and videos on their social media pages that support Trump and other conservative politicians. Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. have also made speeches at Turning Point USA or Turning Point Action events, most recently during a rally in Phoenix in June.
Messages left on Rally Forge and Turning Point USA were not returned immediately on Thursday.
A total of 200 Facebook accounts, 55 pages and 76 Instagram accounts have been removed. Facebook said the network has more than 370,000 followers on Facebook and 22,000 on Instagram. While most of the fake profiles posed as conservatives, Facebook said some pretended to be leftist in 2018.
Twitter announced Thursday that it had suspended 104 accounts related to Iranian efforts to fuel debates over the shooting of George Floyd and other racial justice issues in the US.
The platform said that in some cases, the accounts had been hijacked from their original owners.
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