Social Media

Facebook Bans Troll Accounts Related to Turning Point USA

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Facebook has removed a group of fake accounts tied to Turning Point USA, a conservative youth organization that was caught coordinating a “troll farm”-style social media campaign last month. Facebook’s report on coordinated inauthentic behaviour says it banned 200 Facebook accounts, 55 pages, and 76 Instagram accounts linked to Turning Point.

Facebook has also banned the US marketing firm, Rally Forge, which coordinated the “inauthentic behaviour” on behalf of Turning Point USA and Inclusive Conservation Group.

Facebook says it began its investigation after The Washington Post reported on some elements of the campaign in September. The operation apparently started in 2018 around the US midterm elections, then reappeared in June 2020 as the presidential election heated up. Post described that the accounts focused on leaving coordinated Facebook comments — including ones supporting President Donald Trump, criticizing rival Joe Biden, questioning mail-in voting, and supporting sport hunting in Kenya and Botswana.

Turning Point characterized its operation as coordinated “sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia.” But Facebook describes the most recent accounts it removed as “‘thinly veiled personas’ whose names were slight variations of the names of the people behind them,” and it says their “sole activity on our platform was associated with this deceptive campaign.”

Facebook said in a statement, “Many of these accounts used stock profile and posed as right-leaning individuals across the USA. Rally Forge is now banned from Facebook. We are continuing to investigate linked networks and will take action as appropriate if we determine they are engaged in deceptive behaviour.”

It also says the group spent around $973,000 advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Turning Point USA has occupied a prominent position in conservative politics during the 2020 election. Founder Charlie Kirk gave the first speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention, and he’s been retweeted by Trump and other major Republican figures.

Turning Point also isn’t the only conservative organization recently censured for coordinated misinformation campaigns. Activist Jacob Wohl was charged last week with running a multi-state voter suppression operation, following a ban from social media for planning an election interference initiative.