Facebook confirmed on Tuesday that the company removed over a dozen hyperpartisan pages from its website after a formal review revealed they were all were controlled by fake profile accounts linked to conservatives.
The network of fake liberal and conservative-leaning pages, which collectively boasted a following of more than 30 million users, were flagged because of coordinated sharing activity and spam. Most recently the pages had been pushing links to conservative outlet LifeZette.com, a website owned by Canadian businessman Daryl Katz and founded by Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who owns a minority stake.
“Our systems detected a set of Pages with administrators who were using fake accounts and violating our spam policies,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We’ve reviewed and removed accounts and Pages associated with this activity.”
According to BuzzFeed News those fake administrator accounts and pages were owned and managed by conservative publishers Cyrus Massoumi, Tyler Shapiro, and John Crane.
BuzzFeed News listed several of the associated pages that had been removed for spamming. They included clearly conservative pages such as Conservative 101 and Proud to Be Conservative as well as pages posing as liberal aggregators like Truth Examiner and We Are Liberal.
In emails to BuzzFeed News that he asked be off-the-record, Massoumi confided that he lost 17 pages as a result of Facebook’s decision and all of his advertising ability. He also confirmed that only pages in the network that shared Lifezette.com content and links were removed.
A previous investigation by BuzzFeed News into American News, a page owned by the trio which, was banned this week, revealed that it was often rented out to third-party customers who could share their content to the page’s audience.
In one transaction exposed in July, the page was rented for $5,000 a month to customers so that they could share backlinks to their U.S. politics websites. By August, American News and the other pages were sharing content for what appears to have been their new customer—Lifezette.com.
Pages like this violate Facebook’s recently updated sponsored content policy which does not allow page administrators to accept payment in exchange for sharing content unless they helped create that content.
While third-party customers might justify their use of the service as mere content marketing, Facebook is taking a different view as it steps up policy enforcement ahead of the 2018 midterm elections in November.
H/T Buzzfeed News