Facebook blocks group spreading pro-Trump posts from fake accounts

San Francisco, Dec 21 (AFP/APP): Facebook on Friday said it took down a network of accounts using fake identities while spreading pro-Trump messages at the social network and Instagram.

The campaign was one of two derailed for “engaging in foreign and government interference” and endeavoring “to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” according to Facebook head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher.

“In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action,” Gleicher said in an online post.

The announcement marked the latest move by the huge social network against manipulation by accounts created with fake identities to amplify a political group or cause.

One campaign was traced by Facebook to US-based Epoch Media Group, which has been connect to controversial religious organization Falun Gong, and an outlet known as The BL, according to Gleicher.

“The BL-focused network repeatedly violated a number of our policies, including our policies against coordinated inauthentic behavior, spam and misrepresentation, to name just a few,” Gleicher said.

The BL has been banned from Facebook, he added.

Facebook removed 610 accounts, 89 pages, 156 groups and 72 Instagram accounts that originated in Vietnam and the US, some of which used profile photos generated by artificial intelligence and pretended to be people from the US, according to the social network.

The accounts “typically posted memes and other content about US political news and issues including impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, elections, trade, family values and freedom of religion,” Gleicher said.

Examples provided of posts were pro-Trump.

About 55 million accounts followed one or more pages orchestrated by the campaign, which spent less than $9.5 million on advertising at Facebook and Instagram combined, according to the California-based internet firm.

The second network of accounts taken down at Facebook and Instagram originated in the country of Georgia and targeted people there, according to Gleicher.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation linked this activity to Panda, an advertising agency in Georgia, and the Georgian Dream-led government.”

A total of 39 Facebook accounts, 344 pages, 13 groups and 22 Instagram accounts that had amassed more than 440,000 followers overall were removed after being linked to the Georgia campaign.

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