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American-Made Disinformation Strains Social Media’s Safeguards

The Russian troll farms of 2016 are no longer the primary concern

Voters Cast Ballots In The Kentucky Primary Election
Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Facebook Inc.’s announcement Thursday that it had shut down a network of phony accounts attempting to influence the November elections reinforced fears that people are working to use social media to undermine U.S. democracy. But unlike 2016, when most attention focused on campaigns associated with the Russian government, this year’s wave of disinformation is coming largely from President Donald Trump and his American supporters, a growing body of research shows, raising new challenges for social media companies. 

Facebook tied the campaign it exposed Thursday to Rally Forge, a U.S. marketing firm hired by Turning Point USA, a conservative youth organization that has already been linked to other attempts to manipulate online political debate, and an advocacy organization called the Inclusive Conservation Group. The social network removed 200 Facebook accounts, 55 pages, and 76 Instagram accounts. It also banned Rally Forge.