Facebook purges hundreds of accounts pushing US political 'spam'

Facebook has removed hundreds of US political pages citing “inauthentic activity” ahead of next month’s midterm elections.

Confirming the news via a blog post, Facebook said it has removed more than 800 accounts that sought to profit from politically-themed spam.

“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,” the post read.

“Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were legitimate forums for political debate.”

Previously, Facebook has struggled to identify spam accounts and pages because posts and information shared appears similar to legitimate political sites. Instead of analysing content, Facebook investigated the behaviour on said pages to spot those which had “consistently broken our rules against span and co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour”.

Though it said it would not release a complete list, a spokesperson confirmed affected pages of the purge included Nation in Distress, Reverb Press, Reasonable People Unite, The Resistance Right Wing News and Snowflakes.

Publishers behind two of the accounts - Reverb Press and Reasonable People Unite - have questioned Facebook’s decision to shut them down.

“We are a legitimate news publisher,” said Reverb Press editor-in-chief, Edward Lynn. “We are not fake news. We are not misinformation. We are not foreign. We are simply a small independent news publication trying to grow.”

Reasonable People Unite’s Chris Metcalf told the Washington Post: “I am a legitimate political activist. I don’t have a clickbait blog. I don’t have a fake news website.”

Additionally, Reuters reports Facebook has also shut down 66 accounts, profiles, pages and apps from Russian firm SocialDataHub in an unrelated crackdown for allegedly scrapping personal information from Facebook accounts. A practice which is against Facebook’s terms and conditions.

Facebook and other social media platforms have previously been warned by the Trump administration over political bias, in August the president told them to be “careful” about how they treat political topics.