Facebook removed hundreds of accounts from a foreign troll farm posing as Black Americans supporting Donald Trump and QAnon.
According to NBC News, the social media giant also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to the conservative media outlet The Epoch Times. The site has pushed Trump conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Facebook deleted the accounts citing its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media. The troll farm was based in Romania and created content on Facebook and Instagram under the names “#BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and “We Love Our President.”
Troll farms are typically a group of people working together to manipulate internet discourse with fake accounts. They’re often outsourced and purchased by foreign governments or businesses to push specific political agendas and talking points.
The troll farm’s attempts to portray overwhelming support from Black Americans for Trump were suspicious. According to Newsweek, in June 92% of Black Americans said they support Joe Biden over Trump. Many have taken issue with Trump saying there were fine people on “both sides” of the violent clashes in Charlottesville, his continued opposition to anthem protests, and his claim that he’s “done more for Blacks than any other president.”
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, told NBC the takedowns were largely based on “behavior, not content,” like breaking rules against creating fake accounts to boost engagement on some pieces of content.
The social media site added the troll farm’s motivations were unclear, but they didn’t see “clear evidence of financial motivation” or “clear links to known commercial actors in this space.”
Researchers at the Atlantic Council said many of the troll farm’s posts came from a persona named “David Adrian,” which used a stolen profile photo and claimed to be living in both Romania and Montana. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have since removed multiple accounts under the name.
The Epoch Times troll operation featured 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups, and 31 Instagram accounts, which were followed by more than 2 million people across both Facebook and Instagram.