Facebook pulls down over 800 pages, accounts ahead of midterm elections

The social media giant says they broke rules against spam and "inauthentic behavior."

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
Queenie Wong
3 min read
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Facebook is cracking down on inauthentic accounts and spam ahead of the US midterm elections.

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Facebook said Thursday it pulled down more than 800 pages and accounts that posted sensational political content for violating its rules against spam and "inauthentic behavior" ahead of the US midterm elections.

While Facebook has denied allegations it suppresses conservative voices, some users who got their pages pulled down accused the tech firm of political bias.

The social media giant said it removed 559 pages and 251 accounts for running afoul of its rules. Some of these accounts tried to drive traffic to their websites for ad dollars and misled users into thinking they were forums for political debate, according to the company. Others used fake likes and shares so their content showed up higher in the social network's News Feed. Spammers would also create multiple pages and accounts to reach more users, the company said.

"The bulk of the inauthentic activity we see on Facebook is spam that's typically motivated by money, not politics. And the people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves," Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher and product manager Oscar Rodriguez wrote in a blog post

The tech firm, which has tried to stay away from becoming the "arbiter of truth," noted it looked at the activity of the accounts instead of their content to decide whether to pull them down. 

Some of the removed accounts included conservative news sites such as Right Wing News, which had more than 3.1 million followers, and left-wing groups such as Resistance and Reverb Press, according to The New York Times. Facebook told The New York Times that the accounts the company removed were run by Americans. 

Right Wing News said it will take legal action against Facebook if the social network doesn't restore its page.

"We did run multiple Facebook pages; Facebook allows businesses to have more than one page, and we did own them and had them for years. We were not 'spamming,' we were not using fake accounts, we were not doing anything 'wrong'…except we supported President Trump, and apparently that's not allowed," wrote Brian Kolfage, who managed Right Wing News' Facebook page, in a lengthy post on the news site. 

Citing social media researchers, The New York Times wrote that the conservative news site used multiple Facebook pages and accounts to spread false stories about Christine Blasey Ford -- the professor who accused recently sworn-in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

CNET reached out to Facebook for more details about the removed accounts, but the company did not immediately respond.

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, has been under pressure by lawmakers to protect the integrity of elections. In 2017, the tech firm revealed it found evidence that Russians used the social network to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election and sow discord among Americans. Since then, Facebook has pulled down hundreds of accounts included some tied to influence campaigns by Iran

First published Oct. 11, 11:34 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:01 p.m. PT
: Includes more details about Facebook's rationale. 

Update, 3:52 p.m. PT: Includes more background.

Update, 9:40 p.m. PT: Includes statement from Right Wing News.

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