Facebook removes troll farm posing as African-American support for Donald Trump

Facebook also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times.

Facebook removed hundreds of accounts on Thursday from a foreign troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Donald Trump and QAnon supporters. It also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about coronavirus and protests in the U.S.

Facebook took down the accounts as part of its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media.

The foreign pro-Trump troll farm was based in Romania and pushed content on Instagram under names like “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and on Facebook under “We Love Our President.”

Troll farms — groups of people that work together to manipulate internet discourse with fake accounts — are often outsourced and purchased by foreign governments or businesses to push specific political talking points. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, said the troll farm’s motivations were unclear, but they didn’t see “clear evidence of financial motivation” or “clear links to known commercial actors in this space.”

Facebook stressed that the takedowns were based on “behavior, not content,” like breaking rules against creating fake accounts to boost engagement on some pieces of content.

Researchers at the Atlantic Council found that many of the troll farm's posts came from a persona called "David Adrian," which used a stolen profile photo and claimed to be living in both Romania and Montana. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have since removed multiple accounts for the David Adrian persona.

A separate troll operation, tied to pro-Trump media organization Epoch Media Group, featured 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups and 31 Instagram accounts, which were followed by more than 2 million people across both services. Epoch Media Group is the parent company of the newspaper The Epoch Times. The accounts were tied to a digital media outlet called TruthMedia, which Facebook says it has banned from its services.

The accounts posted about “ongoing U.S. protests and conspiracy theories about who is behind them,” Gleicher said. Some accounts pushed health misinformation about COVID-19, which led to their ban from their services before this month’s takedown.

Stephen Gregory, publisher of The Epoch Times' english-language editions, denied that the company was associated with TruthMedia.

"The Epoch Times and Epoch Media Group are not in any way linked or related with 'Truth Media,' nor do we have any involvement in any operation of 'Truth Media,'" he said in an email.

The same network appears to have created a still-active White House petition to “start calling the novel coronavirus the CCP virus,” according to an investigation from Graphika, which tracks disinformation on social media.

Facebook has twice taken action against Epoch Times-related content, most recently for its use of AI-generated, deepfake-style profile pictures on fake accounts that pushed Epoch Times stories and talking points. Gleicher said that the news Epoch Media Group-related fake accounts primarily used stock photos and not AI-generated photos for profile pictures.

Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising on its platform last year after it purchased ads under account names like “Honest Paper” and “Pure Honest Journalism” to get around the social network’s ad review systems. At the time, The Epoch Times was the largest buyer of pro-Trump ads on Facebook outside of the Trump campaign.

An example of the new Epoch Media-related takedown provided by Facebook showed an account called “Truth14” pushing a meme about a baseball player who didn’t kneel during the national anthem, part of the accounts’ strategy to push pro-Trump culture war messaging.“This guy is going to need a lot of support because the mob is coming for him and his family,” the post reads. “‘MLB’ is ‘BLM’ spelled backwards.”

POST YOUR OPINION

NBCNEWS.COM

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/facebook-removes-troll-farm-posing-african-american-support-donald-trump-n1236056

Trump snubs civil right icon Lewis, cites absence at 2017 inauguration

 trump john lewis

President Donald Trump's personal grievances aired anew this week as he dismissed the legacy of the late U.S. Representative John Lewis after snubbing the civil rights icon and defended his decision not to pay his respects following Lewis' recent death.

Lewis, who played an instrumental role in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was buried last week after an emotional service in Atlanta attended by three of the nation's four living past presidents.

Asked about the legacy of Lewis and how history would remember him, Trump told Axios: "I really don't know ... I don't know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration ... I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe."

Lewis did not attend Trump's January 2017 presidential inauguration after questioning the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election amid Russian meddling, sparking a verbal clash with the then-president elect.

The interview aired Monday night but was taped July 28 as Lewis was honored in Washington and laid in state in the U.S. Capitol. Trump did not to attend, although Vice President Mike Pence, who had served in the House of Representatives with Lewis, did.

Former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton attended a memorial service in Atlanta while 95-year-old former President Jimmy Carter sent a letter.

Obama also eulogized Lewis in a fiery speech that sought to press the nation further on voting protections ahead of November's election, which Trump has sought to undermine by casting doubt with unsubstantiated claims on mail-in ballots and suggesting a possible delay.

Lewis was instrumental in the push for Black Americans' voting rights and led a famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he was nearly beaten to death.

An effort is now under way to rename the bridge, a National Historic Landmark, in honor of the lawmaker, who died last month at age 80. Trump told Axios he would not object.

AdChoices

The interview aired Monday night but was taped July 28 as Lewis was honored in Washington and laid in state in the U.S. Capitol. Trump did not to attend, although Vice President Mike Pence, who had served in the House of Representatives with Lewis, did.

Former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton attended a memorial service in Atlanta while 95-year-old former President Jimmy Carter sent a letter.

Obama also eulogized Lewis in a fiery speech that sought to press the nation further on voting protections ahead of November's election, which Trump has sought to undermine by casting doubt with unsubstantiated claims on mail-in ballots and suggesting a possible delay.

Lewis was instrumental in the push for Black Americans' voting rights and led a famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he was nearly beaten to death.

An effort is now under way to rename the bridge, a National Historic Landmark, in honor of the lawmaker, who died last month at age 80. Trump told Axios he would not object. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

Watchdog calls for probe amid fears of 'voter suppression tactics' through Postal Service

USPS coronavirus

A watchdog organization is calling for an investigation and hearings amid concerns about mail-in ballot “voter suppression tactics” by the Trump administration through the United States Postal Service.

“Recent actions” taken by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by Donald Trump in May, “will delay prioritizing mail delivery,” which threatens voting by mail, warned a letter Thursday from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Johnson is the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The number of Americans voting by mail is expected to surge across the nation as voters seek to avoid the risk of catching COVID-19 at the polls. Yet DeJoy is slashing overtime for mail carriers and prohibiting employees from making late delivery trips, which will slow the mail, he revealed in an internal memo. DeJoy, who has no experience in the agency, is a prominent Trump donor and the former lead fundraiser for the Republican National Convention.

“We have an underfunded state and local election system and a deliberate slowdown in the Postal Service,” Wendy Fields, the executive director of the Democracy Initiative, told The New York Times. Trump is “deliberately orchestrating suppression and using the post office as a tool to do it,” she said.

Former Democratic leader of the Georgia House and Democratic vice presidential hopeful Stacy Abrams also accused Trump on Sunday of attempting to “steal” the election by manipulating the postal service along with his partisan postmaster general. 

After significant delays by the USPS in delivering absentee ballots to voters in Wisconsin’s April primary, a probe by the USPS Office of Inspector General determined that the agency needed to “strengthen adherence to procedures” and “improve communication and coordination” with election offices.

CREW’s letter, which was also signed by Common Cause Wisconsin, calls on Johnson’s Senate committee to determine whether USPS is proactively addressing the “increased national demand for voting by mail” this November. The committee must also determine how cutting back on overtime and extended deliveries by the USPS will impact voting by mail, the letter states. 

Trump has railed about “fraudulent” mail-in ballots, without any basis. He called the upcoming election “fixed” and “rigged,” and the “greatest election disaster in history” — even though the election hasn’t yet occurred.

The system is so suspect, he claimed, that Trump floated the idea of delaying the election in a tweet last Thursday. Trump has no power to do so.

Bizarrely, he urged Americans on Friday to vote via “absentee” ballot, which is a mailed-in vote. Most jurisdictions’ “vote by mail” systems have identical requirements for all voters. 

“It’s actually a great thing, absentee ballots. I’m going to be voting absentee,” Trump told reporters. He noted voters have to “go through a process to get” absentee ballots. Voters have to go through a process for any mail-in ballots.

Michael Steele, former head of the Republican National Committee, later responded in an interview: “The president was like, ‘Well, I love absentee balloting, just [not] this mail-by-vote thing.’ Mr. President, they’re the same thing, OK? Just so you understand: An absentee ballot is the same as a mail-in ballot.”

Critics have charged that Trump is already worried that he’ll lose the election, so he’s strategizing to discredit and even sabotage mail-in votes so he can claim that his defeat was “rigged.”

“Mark my words, I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said back in April. 

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Sunday said he believes Trump won’t leave the White House if he loses the election, and warned the president might invoke some kind of “emergency” action to remain.

Trump’s proposal to delay the U.S. election has infuriated Democrats and has not been supported by Republicans.

POST YOUR OPINION

AOL.COM

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/08/03/watchdog-calls-for-probe-amid-fears-of-voter-suppression-tactics-through-postal-service/24580343/

Trump doesn't think Cain caught virus at Tulsa rally

Herman Cain with Black Trump supporters

President Trump said Friday that he’s confident that his recent rally in Tulsa, Okla., isn’t the reason Herman Cain got sick. 

Cain, the entrepreneur, conservative commentator and 2012 presidential candidate, died on Thursday due to complications from COVID-19. The 74-year-old contracted the virus in late June, days after attending the Trump campaign rally there.

Yahoo News asked Trump on Friday if he believed that Cain was exposed to the virus at the rally. “No, I don’t think so,” Trump said.

Trump also expressed his remorse at Cain’s passing.  

“Herman Cain was a great man. He did a fantastic job. He was respected by everybody, he was loved by everybody and we will miss Herman Cain,” said Trump. 

Cain was photographed attending the June 20 rally, which drew about 6,000 attendees, sitting in the crowd close to other high-profile Trump supporters who were not wearing masks. 

Corrin Rankin, an advisory board member on the president’s African-American outreach team, also posted a photo on social media showing Cain indoors prior to the event with Trump supporters including Rankin, Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson, Republican Party communications adviser Paris Dennard and Rev. C.L. Bryan. In one of the pictures, Cain was wearing a cloth mask around his chin. It did not cover his face. Rankin has since deleted the photo. 

The event was the largest indoor event in the country since the coronavirus lockdowns began. Nevertheless, it suffered from poor attendance that was potentially due to fear of the pandemic. 

Public health officials in Tulsa subsequently suggested the rally may have contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area. And on the day of the rally, the Trump campaign announced that six of their advance staffers had tested positive for the virus. The staffers did not attend the rally. 

Earlier this month, Cain's team announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 29, nine days after the event. Experts say coronavirus symptoms often occur between one and 14 days after exposure. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also addressed Cain's death — and the possibility that he was exposed to the virus at the rally — during a briefing with reporters on Friday. McEnany stressed that no one should “politicize” Cain's death and noted how he “rose to be an extremely successful businessman” after coming from “a small farm” in Georgia.

“Herman Cain is the absolute embodiment of the American Dream,” McEnany said. “We are grieved and we are very saddened by his passing.”

McEnany then read aloud a statement from Dan Calabrese, the editor of Cain’s website, that acknowledged “people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling.”

“I don’t think there’s any way to trace this to one specific contact that caused him to be infected,” Calabrese said in the statement, adding, “We’ll never know.” 

POST YOUR OPINION

AOL.COM

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/07/31/trump-doesnt-think-cain-caught-virus-at-tulsa-rally/24578954/

Herman Cain, 2012 GOP presidential candidate and businessman, dies at age 74

Herman Cain remains on oxygen a month after being hospitalized with COVID-19

Herman Cain, a former business executive who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has died at the age of 74.

His website confirmed the news Thursday morning.

Cain reportedly learned that he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 29. He was hospitalized two days later after developing “serious” symptoms, according to a statement shared on his Twitter account at the time.

His diagnosis came less than two weeks after he attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cain, who co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, tweeted a photo of himself without a mask at the event, which was attended by several thousand people.

POST YOUR OPINION

AOL.COM

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/07/30/herman-cain-2012-gop-presidential-candidate-and-businessman-dies-at-age-74/24577122/

National Weather

Click on Map for Forecast

The Opinion Poll

Yes, they should be - 0%
No, they should not be - 100%
Unsure - 0%

advertisement

advertisement