KEY POINTS

  • The Stone-linked accounts belonged to one of four networks taken down by Facebook Wednesday for inauthentic behavior and foreign interference
  • The accounts also had links to the Proud Boys hate group
  • Proud Boys had been banned from Facebook earlier

Facebook said Wednesday it had removed more than 100 accounts linked to President Trump-ally Roger Stone for violating the social media platform’s policy against foreign interference and coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a review that eliminated four networks operating out of Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Ukraine and the United States.

“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing, and that was the basis for our action,” Facebook said in a blog post.

Facebook said the networks targeted “domestic audiences in each country,” and the errant accounts belonged to commercial entities and individuals cited in the past.

Facebook stressed the decision to take down the accounts was based on behavior, not content.

The network linked to Stone consisted of 54 Facebook accounts, 50 pages and four Instagram accounts posing as Florida residents and linked to the hate group Proud Boys, which was banned in 2018.

“We first started looking into this network as part of our investigation into the Proud Boys’ attempts to return to Facebook after we had designated and banned them from the platform. We identified the full scope of this network following the recent public release of search warrants pertaining to the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller,” Facebook said.

Stone was convicted in November of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to investigators. He was sentenced to three years in prison. He has been ordered to surrender to corrections officials this month.

Facebook said it removed 41 Facebook accounts, 77 pages and 56 Instagram accounts that originated in Canada and Ecuador and were aimed at El Salvador, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador the Chile.

“They used fake accounts to pose as locals in countries they targeted, post and like their own content, drive people to off-platform sites, and manage pages posing as independent news in countries they targeted. Some individuals behind this activity created multiple duplicate accounts under their own name,” Facebook said.

Thirty-five other Facebook accounts, 14 pages, one group and 38 Instagram accounts originating in and targeting Brazil were removed for coordinating activity among several clusters of duplicate and fake accounts.

A fourth group consisting of 72 Facebook accounts, 35 pages and 13 Instagram accounts targeted Ukraine and engaged in hate speech and impersonation. It was particularly active during last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Facebook has stepped up its enforcement actions in response to criticism it has done little to stem the flow of misinformation or prevent interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign.

Facebook last year updated its policies and agreed to label “fake news” to try to stop the spread of misinformation but refused to block political advertising.

Mueller found Russian agents used Facebook and other social media to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as part of a yearslong plot to sow political divisions among Americans. The Internet Research Agency may have reached as many as 126 million people through Facebook and 1.4 million through Twitter.

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