Facebook removes hundreds troll farm accounts posing as African-Americans supporting Donald Trump
Facebook removed hundreds of accounts from a troll farm in Romania posing as African-Americans supporting Donald Trump and the QAnon conspiracy.
The crackdown was a part of the social network’s enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior where fake accounts are used to inflate reach of content or products online.
Facebook said Thursday it deleted hundreds of accounts in various countries. In Romania specifically it deleted 35 Facebook accounts, three pages, and 88 Instagram accounts, according to a release.
‘We found this network as part of our investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election in the US,’ Facebook announced.
The farm pushed out content on Instagram under the names ‘BlackPeopleVoteForTrump’ and ‘We Love Our President’, according to NBC News.
Facebook has removed over 100 accounts from a troll farm in Romania posing as African-Americans supporting Donald Trump and the QAnon conspiracy as well as hundreds of fake accounts linked to pro-Trump media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed comments about coronavirus and protests in the US
A screenshot one of the posts shared by a Romanian pro-Trump troll farm under the handle ‘blackpeoplevoteforTrump’
This is another post that was shared by the since deleted account run by a Romanian troll farm
Troll farms are groups of people that work together to manipulate internet discourse with fake accounts.
These farms are often purchased by foreign governments or businesses to push specific political opinions and talking points.
Facebook’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said to NBC it’s not clear what the motivations of the troll farm are but they didn’t find ‘clear evidence of financial motivation’ or ‘clear links to known commercial actors in this space.’
Facebook said it took down the accounts based on ‘behavior, not content’ for breaking rules against fake accounts.
Some Twitter users took screenshots of the last memes some of these Romania troll farm accounts posted
According to Researchers at the Atlantic Council, many of the troll farm posts came from a persona called ‘David Adrian’, which used a stolen profile photo and claimed to be living in Romania and Montana. A view of one of his last tweeted memes before the account was deleted above
The online persona ‘David Adrian’ shared these memes before the Twitter account was deleted
According to Researchers at the Atlantic Council, many of the troll farm posts came from a persona called ‘David Adrian’, which used a stolen profile photo and claimed to be living in Romania and Montana.
This David Adrian persona’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts have been removed.
A separate troll operation that was tied to pro-Trump media organization Epoch Media Group also had hundreds of accounts deleted. Those accounts pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic and protests in the US.
In total 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups and 31 Instagram accounts were purged. They were followed by more than two million people across both services.
Epoch Media Group is the parent company of the newspaper The Epoch Times. Those accounts were all tied to digital media outlet TruthMedia, which Facebook has banned from its services.
An example of the content posted to one of the banned The Epoch Times-linked Facebook Pages is seen above from a page last year. Facebook said it had removed 610 accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts in December 2019
Above is another sample of the content posted by some of the banned Pages in December 2019 related to the Epoch Times. This was shared by a group called BL. Epoch Times said wasn’t pushed by them, but was created by a former employee and BL operated independently
The accounts posted about ‘ongoing US protests and conspiracy theories about who is behind them,’ Gleicher said.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has sought action against the Epoch Times-lreated content.
Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising on its platform last year when it was the largest buyer of pro-Trump ads on Facebook outside the Trump campaign.
Facebook also said the Epoch Media Group used AI-generated, deepfake-style profile pictures on fake accounts to push Epoch Times stories and talking points.
Gleicher said the fake accounts used stock photos and not AI-generated photos for profile pictures.