Why was a Republican Party Facebook page co-managed by someone in Turkmenistan?

Foreign admin wiped from page after a reporter contacted them.

Feb 21, 2020, 1:32 pm*

Tech

 

Claire Goforth

Aritra Deb/Shutterstock (Licensed)

The managers of the official Facebook page for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) until recently included someone in Turkmenistan.

Forensic News reports that the RPOF page, along with those of Republican parties in nine Florida counties, were co-managed by someone in Turkmenistan.

The counties are Collier, Flagler, Highlands, Hillsborough, Leon, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Wakulla. All also had at least one U.S.-based manager.

The RPOF blames a Facebook error.

“This was an RPOF-owned account, and we can assure you that all our Facebook administrators are based here in FL and are RPOF staffers,” RPOF spokesperson Alia Faraj-Johnson told the Daily Dot. “We have contacted Facebook and they are looking into the error.”

Faraj-Johnson said that the error applied to the nine county pages in addition to the RPOF page.

Facebook did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Turkmenistan-based manager reportedly disappeared from all 10 pages after Forensic News contacted the statewide party’s page owner for comment.

Facebook’s transparency page does not identify page managers by name, so it’s impossible to know who the Turkmenistan-based individual is. There is no apparent connection between Turkmenistan and the RPOF.

Experts told Forensic News that it is possible that the RPOF outsourced social media management, a company it hired for this purpose did so, or, in the alternative, that the manager was using a VPN to mask their location.

“That being said, I don’t see why the admin should show up the way you’re describing it,” TAPSTRI Media cyber analyst Chris Sampson told the outlet. “There’s something very odd about what you’re seeing.

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*First Published: Feb 21, 2020, 1:26 pm