Facebook removes hundreds of fake pro-Trump accounts

U.S. conservative media outlet linked to troll farm in Romania, report says

Facebook has removed hundreds of fake accounts which claimed to be Black Americans who proudly supported President Donald Trump along with hundreds of other dubious accounts that recently promoted several unproven-but-viral conspiracy theories, according to a report by NBC News.

»RELATED: Twitter bans thousands of accounts promoting QAnon conspiracy theory

Facebook’s massive crackdown Thursday on what’s being called a “pro-Trump foreign troll farm” came a day after the social media giant deleted one of Trump’s posts for violating its policy against spreading misinformation by saying children are “virtually immune” to the coronavirus.

Two weeks ago, Twitter made a similar sweep of its platform, removing thousands of accounts for promoting content related to the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, which is based on the absurd notion that a secret “deep state” campaign is trying to undermine Trump’s reelection, among many other unproven claims.

Some of the phantom accounts taken down by Facebook on Thursday were found to be connected to The Epoch Times, a conservative media outlet known for spreading false claims about the pandemic which have been echoed by the president, the network reported.

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The operation was part of a troll team based in Romania that also pushed suspect content on Instagram under account names like “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and on Facebook under “We Love Our President,” according to reports.

The primary aim of a troll farm is to spread propaganda in an effort to manipulate political opinions and decision-making, especially during an election year. Sometimes referred to as “keyboard armies,” the groups are often outsourced and financed like mercenaries for foreign governments.

Facebook later clarified that its action against the accounts was for violations of the site’s rules against creating fake accounts but not necessarily for questionable content.

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The scale of the troll operation linked to Epoch Media Group — the parent company of The Epoch Times — was considerable, with 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups and 31 Instagram accounts, which were followed by more than 2 million people across both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook has taken action against Epoch’s content at least twice before and has banned one of its affiliates — known as TruthMedia — from the site altogether, NBC reported.

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Facebook also banned The Epoch Times from advertising on the platform in 2019 after it purchased ads under fake account names such as “Honest Paper” and “Pure Honest Journalism” to circumvent the site’s protocol for reviewing ads, NBC reported.

At the time, The Epoch Times was the largest buyer of pro-Trump ads on Facebook outside of the Trump campaign, according to NBC.