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 photos.
The network banned by Facebook used fake profile photos generated by artificial intelligence.
GRAPHIKA/THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL’S DIGITAL FORENSIC RESEARCH LAB
“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 election.”