Facebook said Thursday that it deleted a network of fake accounts linked to Romania in July, some of which pretended to be Americans and posed as fans of U.S. President Donald Trump,media CNET reported. The company deleted 35 Facebook accounts from Romania, three Facebook pages and 88 Instagram accounts.
Facebook said in a statement that the people behind the accounts posted a variety of U.S. political topics, including “the upcoming November election, the Trump campaign and African-American support for the campaign, conservative ideology, Christian faith and QAnon.” QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory alleging a “deep-seated government” conspiracy against Trump and his supporters.
The fake accounts also shared stories from the Trump campaign and conservative news organizations. A Trump fan page called “We Love Our President” shared a video clip from Fox News. About 1,600 accounts followed at least one of the pages, and about 7,200 people followed at least one of them on their Instagram account.
Facebook continued to divest its fake account network ahead of November’s U.S. presidential election because it misled people about their identity and purpose. The company focuses on the behavior of the accounts, not the content they post. The use of fake accounts has been a big problem since “Russian trolls” used social networks to post content that they tried to provoke among Americans during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, Facebook continues to face criticism over how it enforces its rules and whether it is quick enough to remove accounts that spread false information.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy, said the company had also found no clear evidence of why the fake accounts linked to Romania published information about U.S. politics and whether they were economically motivated.
Conservatives have accused Facebook of suppressing their comments, although the company has repeatedly denied the allegations. Gleicher said Facebook has seen people using fake accounts to post content about left-wing and right-wing politics. What they share may not indicate their political beliefs or interests.
“What we’ve always seen is that these actors are looking for divisive topics and tensions to attract attention, help them build audiences, and help them advance their narratives,” Gleicher said. “In doing so, they use whatever they can find.”
The company has seen accounts used by bad actors, either through hacking or purchased from others. “This is an ongoing threat. We know that the people behind this malicious activity will continue to try and improve their strategies,” he said.
The Romanian-related fake account network was one of nine that Facebook removed in July. One network includes 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 groups and 31 Instagram accounts linked to the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and France. They are linked to the digital media, Truth Media, which has been banned by Facebook.
In July, Facebook deleted 798 Facebook accounts, 259 Instagram accounts, 669 Facebook pages and 69 Facebook groups.