Facebook announced on Thursday it took down over 800 pages and accounts in a clamp down on what the social media company calls “inauthentic behavior” in the lead-up to the midterm elections next month.
“Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior,” wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy and Oscar Rodriguez, product manager, in a blog post.
“Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action,” the post said.
“Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was,” the post continued.
The other pages and accounts were described as “ad farms” using Facebook to earn money and mislead people rather than engage in “legitimate political debate.”
“Today, sensational political content seems to be a more effective way (than use of traditional celebrity gossip or other content) 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,” Gleicher and Rodriguez wrote.
Among the most high-profile conservative pages to be purged were Right Wing News (approximately 3.1 million followers), Nation in Distress (3.2 million likes), and Joe the Plumber (905,000 likes).
Meanwhile on the left, Facebook removed Reverb Press (816,000 followers), according to Fox News.
The Times’ lengthy piece — titled “Made and Distributed in the U.S.A.: Online Disinformation” and featuring a screen shot of Ring Wing News’ Facebook page (obviously before it was taken down) — appeared to be particularly well-timed to capitalize on Facebook’s crackdown.
Front and center in the article by Sheera Frenkel was Ring Wing News owner and blogger John Hawkins.
Frenkel charged Hawkins’ site with publishing several false stories about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused then-Supreme-Court-nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
One story, according to The Times, included the suggestion her lawyers were bribed by the Democrats.
Frenkel likened Ring Wing News’ conduct to that of Russians in promoting misinformation during the 2016 presidential race.
Hawkins responded to Facebook’s decision, writing on his personal Facebook page, “There is a hit piece on me in the New York Times today. Just to be clear, contrary to what they wrote, they did not reach out to me for comment.
“Also, the Right Wing News webpage is a vanity website now and I don’t run the Right Wing News Facebook page. I haven’t had any involvement in running it this year.”
Hawkins added that he was not surprised by the move against Right Wing News and other conservative pages.
“Facebook has been looking for any excuse to get rid of conservative Facebook pages and this the one they’ve settled on,” he wrote. “As time goes by, they’ll come up with different excuses to get rid of the others that aren’t well connected. It’s their sleazy little way of getting rid of conservative pages without risking heat from DC. It’s all about making sure you only see the news they want you to see.”
“Twitter just suspended the @rightwingnews twitter account for no given reason. It was a violation of rules. I am kind of assuming this one and my personal facebook will be shut down next,” Hawkins also tweeted.
Twitter just suspended the @rightwingnews twitter account for no given reason. It was a violation of rules. I am kind of assuming this one and my personal facebook will be shut down next.
— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) October 11, 2018
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin came to Hawkins’ defense, tweeting that he was one of the first in online conservative media, starting Right Wing News in 2001.
In conservative media, @johnhawkinsrwn is an OG. Started Right Wing News in *2001* & was at vanguard of blogosphere. Now he's targeted by @facebook @Twitter & @nytimes in pre-midterm SV purge of righties.
This is no accident & John is not alone.
Silence is complicity. https://t.co/2eUGPEb28U
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) October 11, 2018
She added, “This is no accident & John is not alone. Silence is complicity.”
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