Facebook has taken down a network of 54 Facebook accounts, 50 pages and four Instagram accounts that were affiliated with former Trump associate and convicted felon Roger Stone for violating the platform’s policy for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” with actions dating back to the 2016 elections and its aftermath.
These accounts — linked to Roger Stone and his associates — posed as residents of Florida, posted and commented on their own content attempting to make it appear more popular than it was, Facebook said in a blog post.
Many of the removed pages were linked to the neo-nazi hate group, Proud Boys, which suggests that Stone and his associates may have worked with the group.
The pages and accounts posted about and amplified the Democratic Party’s hacked internal emails released by Wikileaks ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections, local Florida politics and Roger Stone’s trial.
Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told the Washington Post that action against the accounts was driven by numerous violations of Facebook’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” not for the political views they expressed.
The company noted that the full scope of Stone’s network was identified following the recent public release of search warrants used by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Research firm Graphika which also investigated Stone’s network found that it engaged in coordinated harassment of political opponents while trying to create the impression of significant online public support for Stone, including during his trial.
Apart from the accounts tied to Stone, Facebook removed three other foreign networks engaging in inauthentic behavior including one tied to the staff of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
“It is depressing to see that it took more than a year for them to come down, particularly because so many of us were sounding the alarm bell 12+ months ago,” Nina Jankowicz, Disinformation Fellow at policy thinktank Wilson Center said on Twitter. However, she added that she was encouraged by the development and hoped that “Facebook will increase the scale of this work as well as speed up response time.”
Earlier this year, a federal judge had sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and witness tampering?. Stone had worked for Trump’s campaign as an advisor but officially left the campaign in 2015. Stone was accused of working to obtain emails that were hacked by Russia from a Democratic National Committee (DNC) server and released through WikiLeaks.
Facebook’s action also included the takedown of 35 accounts, 14 Pages, 1 Group and 38 Instagram accounts, most of which were linked to employees of Bolsonaro and two of his sons. These networks posted about local news and events including domestic politics in Brazil and engaged in criticism of Bolsonaro’s political opposition. More recently they had posted about the coronavirus pandemic.
Report on inauthentic behavior tied to Roger Stone’s network (Graphika)