Facebook removed a
seedy network of more than 900 accounts, pages and groups.
SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES
Facebook announced it has removed more than 900 accounts, groups and pages
on its own platform and Instagram for using fake accounts to mislead users,
including with false profile photos generated by artificial intelligence.
The newly banned accounts, groups, and pages were associated with a network
known as “The Beauty of Life” (or “TheBL”), which the social media giant alleges
is an offshoot of the controversial conservative news publisher, The Epoch
Times. The accounts in question often promoted an anti-communist, pro-Trump
message across hundreds of accounts and pages.
“Our investigation linked this activity to Epoch Media Group, a US-based
media organization, and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf,” Facebook
said in a statement. “The BL is now banned from Facebook.”
The Epoch Media Group, owner of The Epoch Times newspaper, is tied closely
to China’s banned Falun Gong movement and is known for pushing pro-Trump
conspiracy theories. Facebook says Epoch Media Group spent $9.5 million on
advertisements spreading content through now-suspended Facebook pages and
groups. The publisher denied Facebook’s accusations.
“The Epoch Media Group has no connection with the website BL,” said
publisher Stephen Gregory in a statement on Friday. “The Epoch Times and The BL
media companies are unaffiliated. The BL was founded by a former employee, and
employs some of our former employees.”
Facebook says it worked with independent researchers Graphika and the
Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) before taking action
against the network of fake users, pages, and groups. The researchers published
a 39-page joint report on Friday that outlined their discoveries — most notably
that the network was using artificial intelligence to generate fake profile
The network banned by Facebook used fake profile
photos generated by artificial intelligence.
GRAPHIKA/THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL’S DIGITAL FORENSIC
“Dozens of these fake accounts had profile pictures generated by artificial
intelligence, in the first large-scale deployment of fake faces known to the
authors of this report,” researchers say in the report.
The forensics team suggests that this likely isn’t the last we’ll hear of
artificial intelligence used to manipulate consumers, a fear that’s grown as
artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated. The report warns, “The strong
focus on supporting President Trump from pages managed in Vietnam may also
indicate a desire amplify pro-Trump messaging throughout the 2020