Facebook has removed several accounts purporting to represent African American support for President Donald Trump, the company revealed Thursday.
It also wiped out hundreds of fake accounts linked to the right-wing media operation The Epoch Times that peddled pro-Trump conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and anti-racism protests.
The fake African American accounts were pushed out by a troll farm in Romania onto Facebook and Instagram targeting the U.S. ahead of the presidential election. The accounts used names like “We Love Our President” on Facebook, and “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” on Instagram.
Facebook said the fake network’s posts featured U.S. news, including the upcoming election, the “Trump campaign and support for the campaign by African Americans,” as well as support for conservative ideology, Christian beliefs and QAnon.
Facebook removed 35 Facebook accounts, three pages and 88 Instagram accounts in the crackdown, which the company said was part of its ongoing action against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” during the presidential campaign.
In a separate troll farm operation tied to pro-Trump media organization Epoch Media Group, Facebook eliminated 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups and 31 Instagram accounts followed by more than 2 million people in largely English and Chinese-speaking countries and Vietnam.
Epoch Media Group is the parent company of the newspaper The Epoch Times. The accounts were tied to the digital media outlet TruthMedia, which has been banned from Facebook.
Stephen Gregory, the publisher of The Epoch Times’ English-language editions, denied to NBC News that the company was associated with TruthMedia.
Facebook last year jettisoned nearly 700 fake accounts using deep-fake profile photos that pushed Epoch Times stories and issues. The network had an international following of some 55 million people.
Facebook also banned The Epoch Times from advertising last year after it purchased space under account names like “Honest Paper” to dodge Facebook’s ad review system. At that time, The Epoch Times was the second-largest buyer of pro-Trump ads on Facebook, after the Trump campaign.
Separately, Facebook last month removed 54 Facebook accounts, 50 pages and four Instagram accounts in a probe of what Facebook said was an effort by the Proud Boys “hate group” to slip back into the social media platform after it was permanently banned.
Facebook linked the network to the felon and longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone and his “associates.”
Identifying those accounts got a boost from the release of search warrants linked to the investigation into Russian interference into the U.S. election by former special counsel Robert Mueller, Facebook noted. The warrants were released in response to a joint petition by several media outlets.
Trump weeks ago commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress and witness tampering, among other crimes, linked to the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.