Facebook says it’s shut down a large network of fake accounts spreading memes and propaganda about US politics that promoted Donald Trump and attacked his rivals.
Some of the bogus Facebook accounts used profile photos generated by artificial intelligence to create the appearance the fake users were Americans, who then joined Facebook Groups to post political content, the company said.
According to Facebook, the network centred on US-based media company The BL, whose bogus accounts had about 55 million total followers across Facebook and Instagram (most of which were outside the US).
The BL network, which was operated by individuals in the US and Vietnam, was linked to Epoch Media Group, the publisher of the Epoch Times which is tied to the Falun Gong religious movement, according to Facebook. (The Epoch Times denied that it has any affiliation with The BL.)
“The BL is now banned from Facebook,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of security policy, said in a blog post. “To evade our enforcement, they used a combination of fake and authentic accounts of local individuals in the US to manage Pages and Groups.”
The BL operation spent nearly $9.5 million on Facebook and Instagram ads, according to the company.
Material that the fake accounts posted included: a link to an Epoch Times story, “Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Fires Top Official Following Complaints of ‘Inappropriate Behaviour'”, and a link to an article with the headline “Pelosi delegation visits Middle East without authority to negotiate with foreign leaders.”
Also on Friday, Twitter said it suspended about 700 accounts originating from Vietnam that were evidently part of the same network, for violating its rules banning fake accounts and spam.