Facebook said Thursday that it has taken down hundreds of fake accounts created by a marketing company that worked with the young conservative group Turning Point USA to invade the comments sections of mainstream publishers and denigrate Democratic politicians.
The marketing company, Rally Forge worked on behalf of Turning Point USA to create 200 fake identities on Facebook and 76 on Instagram, as well as 55 Facebook pages, the social media giant said in a blog post.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said that Rally Forge’s “action on behalf of [Turning Point USA] was largely politically focused, directly around the election.”
The accounts lingered in comment sections of Facebook pages of mainstream news sources including The Washington Post, The New York Times and MSNBC, and attacked Joe Biden and left-leaning politicians while praising President Donald Trump. NBCUniversal is the parent company of MSNBC and NBC News.
The identities “used stock profile photos and posed as right-leaning individuals from across the U.S.” and their “sole activity on our platform was associated with this deceptive campaign,” Facebook said.
One of the accounts pushed false claims about mail-in voting, erroneously claiming “a dangerous amount of ballots will be lost or won’t arrive in time” in response to a Des Moines Register article.
The announcement adds to concern that domestic misinformation campaigns are now a larger threat to the integrity of the upcoming election than foreign interference, which continues to be the subject of intense analysis.
Rally Forge is now banned from Facebook’s platform. Turning Point USA’s official page, which has over 1.8 million followers, is still active on Facebook.
Rally Forge, Turning Point USA and its founder and president Charlie Kirk did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Turning Point field director Austin Smith denied any wrongdoing in a statement to The Washington Post last month, and described the operation as a creative solution to restrictions put in place by the coronavirus.
Turning Point USA was founded in 2012 and has quickly grown under the Trump administration to become one of the most popular young conservative groups in the U.S. Its founder, Kirk, was the first speaker at the Repulican National Convention.