This week, Facebook removed hundreds of fake accounts, some of which were posing as Trump supporters but were actually based out of an apparent troll farm in Romania. The development reveals the latest front in the ongoing struggle against foreign meddling in U.S. elections, an issue that Trump and his political allies continue to fail to take seriously. Facebook “took down the accounts as part of its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media,” NBC explains.
NBC News: Facebook removed hundreds of accounts on Thursday from a Romania-based troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Donald Trump with names such as “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and “We Love Our President.”https://t.co/N1TVY80aru
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) August 6, 2020
One of the accounts that was removed was an Instagram page posting under the name “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump.” (Facebook owns Instagram.) Nathaniel Gleicher, who leads security policy at Facebook, explained that they did not find “clear evidence of financial motivation” or “clear links to known commercial actors in this space” on the part of the fake accounts.
Here's some of that foreign help Trump won't condemn 👇
The foreign pro-Trump troll farm was based in Romania and pushed content on Instagram under names like “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and on Facebook under “We Love Our President.”#TrumpKillsSeniorshttps://t.co/VxpbaYFn9Z
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) August 6, 2020
Of course, part of the infamous Russian meddling scheme targeting U.S. elections in 2016 included faked social media accounts that were pushing pro-Trump material across the web — but there does not appear to be any evidence tying these latest removed accounts to Russia. The closest to a solid source for the faked accounts is the conclusion from Atlantic Council researchers, who found that many of the faked accounts’ posts seemed to emanate from someone going by “David Adrian.” That persona was using a profile photo from another source.
Here are some posts from the newly discovered Romanian pro-Trump troll farm.
Account names like "BlackPeopleVoteForTrump" and "WeLoveOurPresident."
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 6, 2020
A separate crackdown this week included the removal of 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups, and 31 Instagram accounts, which had a collective total of more than 2 million followers and were connected to the Epoch Media Group, which is a decidedly pro-Trump media organization. According to Gleicher, the security official from Facebook, the Epoch Times-connected accounts were posting about “ongoing U.S. protests and conspiracy theories about who is behind them.” Facebook has already taken action against The Epoch Times — they banned the outlet from advertising on the platform after they purchased ads under false names, which were meant to help the ads slip by Facebook’s ad review system.
These developments emerged the day after Facebook removed a post that the Trump team themselves put up. The post included a link to a Fox interview in which Trump claimed that children are “virtually immune” to the Coronavirus, which is brazenly incorrect — although they’ve suffered in comparatively smaller numbers than adults, children have gotten sick and died from the disease. Facebook, in their explanation for the removal of Trump’s post, noted that the “video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation.” It’s wild when the president of the United States can’t even be trusted to deliver basic, accurate information amidst a pandemic.
Trump has consistently himself pushed false information that has the net effect of undercutting election integrity. For instance, he’s spent a lot of time going on and on recently about how there’s supposedly a grave danger of election fraud when mail-in voting is used. His claims are entirely incorrect and unsupported by the actual evidence at hand.