Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts that “masqueraded as Americans” by using fake, artificial intelligence-generated profile pictures for violating its rules against inauthentic behavior, the company shared on Friday afternoon. The bogus accounts were linked to a popular conservative outlet and circulated news stories on a number of political topics, the company added.
In a blog post, Facebook said it purged “610 accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 groups and 72 Instagram accounts” connected to The BL, a U.S.-based media company. The BL’s accounts were operated by people in the U.S. and Vietnam. After an investigation, Facebook said it connected The BL to Epoch Media Group, the parent company of The Epoch Times, a conservative website that has vocally supported President Trump in recent years.
“Some of these accounts used profile photos generated by artificial intelligence and masqueraded as Americans to join Groups and post the BL content,” Facebook said in its blog post. “To evade our enforcement, they used a combination of fake and authentic accounts of local individuals in the US to manage Pages and Groups. The Page admins and account owners typically posted memes and other content about US political news and issues including impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, elections, trade, family values and freedom of religion.”
The post added: “The BL is now banned from Facebook. We are continuing to investigate all linked networks, and will take action as appropriate if we determine they are engaged in deceptive behavior.”
The Epoch Times publisher Stephen Gregory, in a post that came out soon after Facebook’s, said Epoch Media Group has “no connection” to The BL.
“The Epoch Times and The BL media companies are unaffiliated. The BL was founded by a former employee, and employs some of our former employees. However, that some of our former employees work for BL is not evidence of any connection between the two organizations,” Gregory said.
He then called on Facebook to retract its claim the two sites were connected, as well as its “unjustified ban” on Epoch Media Group’s advertising.