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Facebook sweep deletes some fake Trump supporters and COVID conspiracies

The sweep targeted coordinated fake behavior, not specific content.
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Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, said during the company’s earnings call that, like the boycott’s organizers, "we don't want hate on our platforms, and we stand firmly against it." (Getty Images)
Pornpak Khunatorn via Getty Images

Facebook has removed several networks of accounts that were spreading misinformation in the US ahead of the 2020 presidential election. One of the troll farms, which was based in Romania, posed as a group of African Americans who said they supported President Donald Trump. They used names like "BlackPeopleVoteForTrump" to share their content. 

Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook, told NBC the group's motives were unclearHowever, the company didn't see "clear evidence of financial motivation." Gleicher went on to stress that Facebook took action against the organization for using fake accounts to game the company's algorithms, not the specific content they were posting.

A larger enforcement action saw the company ban 303 Facebook accounts and 31 Instagram accounts operated by “Truth Media.” Facebook’s report says this network “showed some links to on-platform activity by Epoch Media Group,” the publisher of The Epoch Times. Truth Media pushed conservative conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in the US, Canada and a variety of other countries. Facebook said approximately 2 million accounts across both platforms followed the operation.

This is not the first time that Epoch Media Group has been linked to bad actors by Facebook. In August 2019, NBC News reported that Facebook banned ads from The Epoch Times for not following its transparency rules. Later that same year, Facebook banned 610 Facebook accounts and 72 Instagram accounts from an organization known as The BL, saying its investigation “linked this activity to Epoch Media Group, a US-based media organization, and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf.” At the time, Facebook said approximately 55 million accounts, many of them based outside of the US, followed the operation in one way or another. In some instances, the troll farm used artificial intelligence to cover its tracks.

Update 8/7: This article has been updated to clarify when and how Facebook has drawn links between bad actors on its platform and Epoch Media Group. The Epoch Times maintains that it is “not in any way linked or related with Truth Media,” and says it “has no business relationship with, or is in any way responsible for the operations of The BL.”

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