Facebook on Thursday banned a marketing company for creating fake accounts on behalf of right-wing nonprofit Turning Point Action, a tactic used by foreign and domestic actors to improperly influence political discourse in the U.S.
In a blog post, Facebook said Phoenix-based Rally Forge created “thinly veiled personas,” whose names were slight variations of the people behind them, to comment on news stories from Washington Post, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and The New York Times.
The comments cast doubt on mail-in ballots, criticized the Democratic party and Joe Biden and praised President Donald Trump and the Republican party.
Facebook removed 200 Facebook accounts, 55 Pages and 76 Instagram accounts associated with the campaign, which had amassed 373,000 followers on Facebook and 22,000 people on Instagram.
The tactics used by Rally Forge mirror that of foreign actors who have tried to misuse Facebook to sow discord in American politics.
Rally Forge did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
In a statement, Turning Point Action said it “works hard to operate within social platforms’ TOS on all of its projects and communications and we hope to work closely with FB to rectify any misunderstanding.”
“Although the people behind this network attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation linked this activity to Rally Forge, a US marketing firm, working on behalf of Turning Point USA and Inclusive Conservation Group,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said in a blog post.
Turning Point Action was founded by 26-year-old Charlie Kirk, an ardent Trump supporter who spoke at the Republican National Convention and has 1.8 million Twitter followers. Turning Point Action is a 501(c)(4) offshoot of Turning Point USA, a right-wing youth nonprofit promoting “freedom” on college campuses. Turning Point Action said in a statement it is an “entirely separate entity” from Turning Point USA, though both were founded by Kirk and use similar branding.
Right wing content on Facebook tends to be more popular than left wing posts. But Turning Points USA isn’t the only conservative organization to get punished for breaking Facebook’s rules. The company gave the Daily Wire, which was founded by Ben Shapiro, a warning in July for having an undisclosed paid relationship with Mad World News to promote its stories, according to the newsletter Popular Information.