By Dustin Volz 

Facebook Inc. on Wednesday said it had removed a network of more than 100 pages and accounts linked to Roger Stone, the longtime confidant of President Trump, because it violated the company's rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior.

Mr. Stone and his associates used fake Facebook and Instagram accounts that were active since at least 2015 to promote media appearances and amplify material related to the release of hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks, Facebook said.

In total, four Facebook accounts, 50 Facebook pages and four accounts on Instagram were removed, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, said in a blog post. Some 260,000 accounts followed one or more of the pages and about 61,500 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts, Mr. Gleicher said.

A lawyer for Mr. Stone didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Stone was convicted last year on charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of a congressional proceeding. He was scheduled to begin serving a 40-month federal prison sentence on July 14 but has asked an appeals court to delay his reporting date over concerns about Covid-19.

The takedown was the latest high-profile attempt by Facebook to combat inauthentic behavior by domestic users on its platform, which is a violation of its policies. Facebook's policies on fake activity have been under intense public and congressional scrutiny since Russia used its platform as part of a multipronged cyber operation to interfere in the 2016 election. Russia has denied any interference.

More recently, independent researchers of social media have highlighted how U.S.-based users also often manipulate the platform in pursuit of political gain.

Graphika, a firm that investigates social-media disinformation, said in a corresponding report released Wednesday that the network of accounts associated with Mr. Stone worked to harass political opponents and inflate his popularity and support during trial.

The bulk of activity from the accounts took place in 2016 and 2017, either close to or immediately after the presidential election, Graphika said, though some of them were active into 2020.

"Much of the network's content focused on Roger Stone, praising his political acumen, defending him against criminal charges, and demanding that he be pardoned after he was found guilty of those charges in November 2019," the report said.

Facebook also announced on Wednesday it had taken down three other networks tied to foreign actors in different countries. One of those networks was tied to employees who work for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and members of his family, though it wasn't clear if Mr. Bolsonaro had any involvement or awareness of them.

Byron Tau contributed to this article.

Write to Dustin Volz at dustin.volz@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 08, 2020 18:32 ET (22:32 GMT)

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