Facebook investigates group backed by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman

News for Democracy may have violated the social network's rules after apparently setting up misleading news pages during the 2018 US midterm elections.

Queenie Wong
Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
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Reid Hoffman

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Facebook is looking into whether News for Democracy, a group backed by LinkedIn co-founder and billionaire Reid Hoffman, ran afoul of the social network's rules after creating misleading news pages during the 2018 midterm elections. 

"Our investigation is ongoing, and we'll continue to take action against accounts that we identify as violating our policies," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. 

News for Democracy set up at least 14 Facebook pages and purchased political ads during the election, according to The Washington Post, which cited a person familiar with the group's operations. The pages, which include The Holy Tribune and Sounds like Tennessee, are listed as news companies but don't disclose who is behind the groups or any information beyond their names. Facebook's public political ad database, though, shows that News for Democracy paid for the ads on these pages. 

Facebook has online rules against misrepresenting yourself on the social network, including misleading people about a content's origins. But unlike political ads, groups that set up Facebook pages, including news outlets, aren't required to disclose information beyond their name. That could be a loophole in Facebook's fight against misinformation. 

The social media company is still investigating News for Democracy, but Facebook declined to elaborate on what rules this group may have violated.

Some of those ads purchased by News for Democracy targeted right-leaning US voters with Democratic messages. The group, for example, ran ads supporting Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat from Texas, on a page targeting evangelicals called The Holy Tribune.

It isn't the first time that Hoffman has landed in hot water for the groups he's funded. In December, Hoffman apologized for unknowingly backing a group that reportedly used similar tactics by Russian trolls to spread disinformation during a 2017 Alabama special election as part of an experiment.

Facebook, which suspended several accounts tied to the Alabama disinformation campaign, started looking into News for Democracy in December after those revelations surfaced, according to The Post. Motive AI, another startup funded by Hoffman, also created the News for Democracy pages on Facebook. 

Hoffman and Motive AI didn't respond to requests for comment. 

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