Facebook kicked Roger Stone, the Donald Trump associate who faces prison time after being convicted of seven felonies, off of Facebook and Instagram. The company said it had found evidence that Stone was behind a network of fake accounts designed make themselves appear “more popular than they were.”
The company said it “identified the full scope of this network” — linked to “Stone and his associates” — following the public release of search warrants and documents from the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller following a lawsuit filed by media organizations.
Facebook took the actions the same day a report by civil-rights auditors — which the company had commissioned — criticized “the vexing and heartbreaking decisions Facebook has made that represent significant setbacks for civil rights.” The social-media giant also is in the midst of a 900-plus advertiser boycott, under the #StopHateForProfit, demanding Facebook take action against hate speech and discrimination.
In a statement to the New York Times, Stone denied that he had a part in the disinformation network. “This extraordinary active censorship for which Facebook and Instagram give entirely fabricated reasons, is part of a larger effort to censor supporters of the president, Republicans and conservatives on social media platforms,” Stone said. “The claim that I have utilized or control unauthorized or fake accounts on any platform is categorically and provably false.”
According to Facebook, the network linked to Stone comprised 54 Facebook accounts, 50 Facebook Pages, and four Instagram accounts, which were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior in the United States.” The accounts were most active between 2015-17; most are now dormant and some have been permanently deleted by the users, Facebook said.
Participants in the network posed as residents of Florida to “post and comment on their own content to make it appear more popular than it is, evade enforcement, and manage Pages,” according to Facebook.
Several of these accounts had links to far-right group the Proud Boys, a “hate group we banned in 2018,” according to Facebook. Some of the Facebook Pages appeared to have acquired followers from Pakistan and Egypt “to make themselves seem more popular than they were.” The account owners posted about “local politics in Florida, Roger Stone and his Pages, websites, books, and media appearances, a Florida land and water resources bill, the hacked materials released by Wikileaks ahead of the US 2016 election, candidates in the 2016 primaries and general election, and the Roger Stone trial,” per Facebook.
The Stone-affiliated network paid less than $308,000 for ads on Facebook and Instagram, according to Facebook.
Also Wednesday, Facebook said it removed three other networks — in Canada and Ecuador, Brazil, and Ukraine — for violating its policy against foreign interference and coordinated inauthentic behavior.
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