If you saw a comment on an article about mail-in voting in a swing state, there’s a chance it came from one of the 200 fake accounts Facebook removed in October. On Thursday, the social network released its monthly coordinated inauthentic behavior report, including a takedown on a US campaign in favor of the Trump administration.
The disinformation campaign came from Rally Forge, a US marketing firm working on behalf of the conservative group Turning Point USA, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy.
Rally Forge created 200 fake Facebook accounts, 76 Instagram accounts and 55 pages on Facebook starting in 2018, and posted comments on political topics, posing as real people while using stock photos, Gleicher said.
Topics included the 2020 presidential election, COVID-19 and praise of President Donald Trump. They also posted comments in support of trophy hunting in Kenya. In one example comment, a fake persona attacked the integrity of mail-in voting — echoing disinformation campaigns from foreign actors.
“Mail-in ballots are such a horrible idea. A dangerous amount of ballots will be lost or won’t arrive in time. The smartest thing to do is to vote in person,” the fake personality said in a Facebook comment on an article about mail-in voting in Iowa.
Rally Forge didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Turning Point Action works hard to operate within social platforms’ [terms of services] on all of its projects and communications and we hope to work closely with [Facebook] to rectify any misunderstanding,” Turning Point USA said in a statement.
Rally Forge has since been banned from Facebook, but Turning Point USA is still active on the social network.
Their pages had about 373,000 followers on Facebook and 22,000 followers on Instagram, and spent about $973,000 on ads before the takedown.
Gleicher said that many of these accounts had already been automatically removed by Facebook’s detection system, but would pop back up with slight variations of the names.
Other takedowns noted in Facebook’s report on Thursday include campaigns in Myanmar where the nation’s military incited a genocide on the social network, and in Azerbaijan, where the ruling political party used fake accounts to harass its opposition.