Political Messages For Profit Spark Facebook Deletions
Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has purged more than 800 accounts and pages for pushing politically oriented content that violated the company’s spam policies. Facebook said it had identified 559 pages and 251 accounts run by Americans that would be removed for amplifying false and misleading content. Facebook said it was not removing the publishers and accounts because of the type of content they posted.
The company said it had discovered the activity because the pages had become more aggressive in using tactics to make themselves appear more popular. Some of the accounts were flagged for spamming Facebook groups with identical pieces of content and using fake profiles. A conservative news site called Right Wing News had created a series of new Facebook pages and accounts under many different names over the last year.
Some of the removed pages and accounts had hundreds of thousands of followers. One of the pages, titled Nation In Distress, had over 3 million followers. Another, called Reverb Press, had over 700,000 followers. Reverb Press’s logo on its Facebook page shows that it has been verified by the social network.
According to company officials, the pages and accounts did not appear to have ties to Russia. The accounts and pages likely belong to domestic actors using clickbait headlines and other spamming tactics. Russian operatives used Facebook to target American voters ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. Now, domestic sites are directly emulating the Russian playbook of 2016.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security, said that many of the domestic organizations probably had financial motivations for spreading disinformation. Gleicher said, “Today, sensational political content seems to be a more effective way for people to build an audience for their Pages and drive traffic to their websites, which earn them money for every visitor to the site.”
The move to target American politically oriented sites comes mere weeks before the congressional midterm elections. Facebook has been under immense pressure to crack down on content that could disrupt the democratic process and has become a flashpoint for political groups and their allies. Some are now accusing Facebook of political censorship.