Daily Management Review

Pro-Trump Fringe Media Outlet Banned By Facebook Over Use Of Fake Accounts


A network of hundreds of fake accounts with computer-generated pictures to push selected content was used by pro-Trump US media outlet on Facebook, which the social media company described as a first-of-its-kind influence operation. The largest social media platform of the world also said that it had banned the group from its platform.
The Facebook group called TheBL has been banned from accessing the platform over charges of violation of its policies while also disabling accounts of about 600 users several hundred pages that the company allegedly ran, said the social media network on Friday.
A huge network of fake accounts that were designed to look like accounts of American citizens was operated by the TheB, Facebook said. These accounts were created using unique profile photos with the help of artificial intelligence, it added. This was “the first time we are seeing [artificial intelligence-generated images] systemically used” in online influence campaigns, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook’s cyber security policy told te media.
There are growing concerns about the inability of Facebook and rival social media platforms Twitter and Google’s YouTube to tackle an increase in fake news and disinformation campaigns in the run up to the 2020 presidential elections in the United States. Concerns are also being raised at the possibility of use of new technology and tools for creating the so-called deepfake imagery and text on a mass scale. 
The company said that the group called TheBL — which is an abbreviation for The Beauty of Life, in a conservative news outlet that is not typically known one which apparently is only concerned with sharing of news articles that are provocative in nature, conspiracy theories and political content that is in favour of the US president Donald Trump. 
Epoch Media Group, a far-right American Chinese media network with ties to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, was linked to the activity, Facebook said. Earlier this year, Epoch spent one of the largest amounts in political advertisements on Facebook. However the group was later banned by Facebook from posting ads on the platform after the group did not disclose that it was the source of some advertisement campaigns.
The alleged links with TheBL was denied by the Epoch Media Group in a statement. It further said that one of its former employees had founded the TheBL. It also said that the advertisement ban on it by Facebook was “unjustified.”
Facebook said that traffic was directed to the websites of TheBL with tools that were able to “automate posting at very high frequencies” in the latest operation on the platform. There were more than 55m followers, the majority of which were outside of the US, of the accounts that were operated and managed from Vietnam as well as the US. Facebook said that nearly $10m on advertising on the platform was spent by TheBL.
Apparently the motivation behind the operation that was discovered and unveiled on Friday was majorly financial, Gleicher said, and added that the tactic if the group of creating accounts and profiles using AI-generated human images – with some genuine accounts thrown in-between, was aimed at avoiding Facebook detecting the activities and the entire operation.
“It’s clear they are being aggressive enough and adversarial enough that we need to take a more comprehensive action, which is why we're removing the entire network,” he said.