Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Facebook deleted fake accounts connected to Roger Stone, Proud Boys, and PR firms

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Facebook ad on Wednesday he deleted hundreds of fake accounts attributed to four different information operations. Two of the deals were linked to professional PR or advertising agencies, and one of them was linked to former Trump adviser Roger Stone. According to the company, the four operations spent more than $ 3.5 million on advertising.

The network associated with Stone consisted of 50 Facebook pages, 54 accounts and four Instagram pages. He was also associated with the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s rights group that the social media company banned in 2018 for violating “policies against hate organizations and personalities”.

According to the statement, members of the network posed as residents of Florida and created “their own content to make it appear more popular than it is.” He spent around $ 308,000 on ads and bought fake subscribers in Pakistan and Egypt.

Stone’s own account was suspended, but he denied any involvement with the network in a statement to the New York Times.

“This extraordinary active censorship for which Facebook and Instagram are giving entirely fabricated reasons,” he told the newspaper, “is part of a larger effort to censor supporters of the president, Republicans and conservatives on platforms. social media. “

While Facebook does not provide data on all of the content promoted by the fake Stone affiliate accounts and pages, screenshots provided from 2016 show that the network posted articles from Infowars, Stone’s personal website and of the left watchdog Media Matters.

“Page administrators and account owners have posted articles on local Florida politics, Roger Stone and his pages, websites, books and media appearances, a land bill and Florida water resources, pirated documents released by Wikileaks ahead of the 2016 US election, candidates in the 2016 primary and general election, as well as the Roger Stone trial, ”the statement read.

The dismantling affected the entire world, affecting three separate networks centered in Ecuador and Canada, Ukraine and Brazil.

Two other deleted networks were affiliated with professional firms, continuing a trend professionalization of disinformation. One, a public relations firm linked to Canada and Ecuador called Estraterra, spent about $ 1.38 million on ads on the platform. Another company, an advertising agency in Ukraine that “was particularly active in the 2019 presidential and legislative elections,” spent around $ 1.93 million.

The Ukrainian network has already been the victim of resignations for hate speech and identity theft. It was run by Postmen DA, an advertising agency that describes itself as “the most efficient digital agency”.

Roberto Wohlgemuth, founder and CEO of Estraterra, told BuzzFeed News that Facebook had not informed him of the withdrawals, which the social network said involved “41 Facebook accounts, 77 pages and 56 Instagram accounts”.

“The rise of social media has provided this incredible opportunity to center diverse voices – those that have been historically marginalized from public debates and conversations. Unfortunately, this Facebook announcement only reiterates its own capture by the same powerhouses. elite, ”Wohlgemuth said in an email. statement to BuzzFeed News. “Estraterra will continue to advocate not only for our freedom of speech, but also for our freedom to be silenced.”

Although Wohlgemuth’s company is based in Canada, the network has not targeted the country, according to the Facebook statement. Rather, it focused on Ecuador, Venezuela and Chile. Wohlgemuth LinkedIn Page says he is a former senior adviser to the Ecuadorian president “on strategic and political communication issues”.

“The British newspaper Financial Times is calling for an end to sanctions against Venezuela,” said an example of an Instagram post released by the company. The post got six likes.

“It’s not true that every year that ends in 20 of every century there is a new pandemic,” said another Instagram post attributed to the network, which was even less popular with three likes.

Some of the deleted accounts were attributed to a network in Brazil, which was targeting audiences there. In this case, pages have claimed to be news outlets while broadcasting criticism of the political opposition of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. According to Facebook, this activity has been attributed to some employees of Bolsonaro’s offices, his two sons and people associated with the right-wing Social-Liberal Party.

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