A network of more than 100 social accounts and pages related to former Trump adviser Roger Stone were removed Wednesday. The under the radar raid reportedly consisted of 54 Facebook accounts, 50 Facebook pages and four accounts on Instagram, a photo-sharing platform owned by Facebook.
Approximately 260,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and 61,500 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts. Several of the pages were also linked to the Proud Boys, a far-right group banned from Facebook in 2018.
The pages and accounts in question appeared to have "coordinated inauthentic behavior" focused on audiences in the U.S., targeting Stone directly, political issues in Florida, and hacked materials released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
"The people behind this activity used fake accounts — some of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to pose as residents of Florida, post and comment on their own content to make it appear more popular than it is, evade enforcement, and manage Pages," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, wrote in a blog post for the social media giant. "Several of these Pages had links to Proud Boys, a hate group we banned in 2018. Some Pages appeared to have acquired followers from Pakistan and Egypt to make themselves seem more popular than they were."
The network was most active between 2015-2017, according to Gleicher.
"Since then, the majority of these accounts have been dormant, and some were permanently deleted by the users," he wrote. "The Page admins and account owners posted about local politics in Florida, Roger Stone and his Pages, websites, books, and media appearances, a Florida land and water resources bill, the hacked materials released by Wikileaks ahead of the US 2016 election, candidates in the 2016 primaries and general election, and the Roger Stone trial."
Gleicher added, "We first started looking into this network as part of our investigation into the Proud Boys’ attempts to return to Facebook after we had designated and banned them from the platform. We identified the full scope of this network following the recent public release of search warrants pertaining to the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in response to a joint petition from The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and Politico. Our investigation linked this network to Roger Stone and his associates."
Gleicher's team concluded that advertising spent on the campaigns totaled less than $308,000.
Examples of the posts are below.
This past February, Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison following his conviction of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a proceeding related to the Robert Mueller investigation into the 2016 election and Russian interference.