Both Twitter and Facebook have shut down accounts that were carrying out a disinformation campaign run by Turning Point Action, an affiliate of the popular pro-Trump conservative youth activist group Turning Point USA, reported CNN. The organisation reportedly paid teenagers to post identical posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter discrediting presidential contender Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, among other things.
According to CNN, the campaign was operated as a troll farm wherein the teenagers posted with their own accounts without disclosing that they were doing so on behalf of Turning Point Action. The teenagers posted messages such as “Don’t trust Dr. Fauci”, and promoted on mail-in voting and voter fraud. The campaign was operational for months.
A Facebook spokesperson said that it removed multiple accounts for violating is policies on running multiple accounts. Facebook did not specify the number of accounts it removed. Twitter, which removed 20 accounts, said accounts had been removed for violation of policies on manipulation and spam.
It’s worth noting that the accounts were removed after the Wall Street Journal reported on the disinformation campaign. It points to the inability of platforms in dealing with misinformation and manipulative behaviour, especially behaviour aimed at harming election and voter integrity. Importantly, this behaviour was undetected in the USA, where Facebook is careful about their impact on political processes and public debate.
In contrast, a recent memo by a Facebook employee points to the company’s unresponsiveness around manipulation and disinformation campaigns being run in Honduras, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, among others. Even in Delhi, Facebook removed a “politically-sophisticated network” of over a thousand actors working to influence Delhi’s assembly elections held in February.
The same goes for Twitter, which flagged a hateful video posted by BJP leader T. Raja Singh urging the removal of Rohingya Muslim immigrants out of the country. Singh had posted a similar message on Facebook, which ultimately led to his permanent ban from the platform. Facebook faced backlash, from the public and internally, after it was reported that top Facebook executives in India refused to remove hate speech by ruling party leaders, for fear of hurting Facebook’s business prospects in India.
This tweet by T. Raja Singh, demanding that Rohingya Muslims be deported, is still live:
— Raja Singh (@TigerRajaSingh) September 13, 2017