Before the 2020 election, Troll Farm reaches 140 million Americans on Facebook every month


Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said in a statement that when Allen’s report was released, the company was “already investigating these topics.” “Since then, we have formed a team, formulated new policies, and worked with industry peers to solve these network problems. We have taken active enforcement actions against such untrue groups at home and abroad and shared the results publicly every quarter. .”

During the fact-checking of this story shortly before its release, MIT Technology Review found that five of the troll-farm pages mentioned in the report were still active.

The largest “Troll Farm” page for African Americans in October 2019, which is still active on Facebook.

The report found that Troll Farm is reaching out to the same demographic groups selected by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA) during the 2016 election, which targets Christians, African Americans, and Native Americans. A 2018 BuzzFeed News Survey It was discovered that at least one Russian IRA member was prosecuted for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. He also visited Macedonia when the first troll farm appeared in Macedonia, but no specific evidence was found to show that there was a connection. (Facebook stated that its investigation also found no connection between the IRA and the troll farm in Macedonia.)

“This is not normal. This is not healthy,” Allen wrote. “We authorize unreal actors to accumulate a large number of fans for most unknown purposes… In fact, actors who may be connected to the IRA can reach a large audience of the same demographic group targeted by the IRA This poses a huge risk to the U.S. election in 2020.”

As long as Troll Farm succeeds in using these strategies, any other bad actors will be fine, he continued: “If Troll Farm reaches 30 million U.S. users with content targeted at African Americans, if we find that the IRA is currently There are also large audiences there.”

Allen wrote this report as the fourth and final part of the one-and-a-half year effort to understand the troll farm. According to the former Facebook employee who provided the report, he left the company the same month partly because the leadership “actually ignored” his research and was frustrated. Allen declined to comment.

The report revealed the shocking situation of Facebook’s leadership leaving the platform over the years, despite the public’s repeated pledges to actively respond to foreign election interference. MIT Technology Review is providing a complete report because it is in the public interest and the names of employees have been deleted.

Its revelations include:

  • As of October 2019, during the 2016 general elections, Kosovo and Macedonia, two of approximately 15,000 Facebook pages dominated by American audiences, were depleted.
  • In total, these troll farm pages—the report treats them as one page for comparison—reach 140 million U.S. users every month and 360 million global users every week. Wal-Mart’s page reached the second largest audience in the United States of 100 million.
  • The troll farm page is also combined into:
    • The largest Christian American page on Facebook is 20 times larger than the second largest page-there are 75 million American users every month, 95% of whom have never followed any page.
    • The largest African-American page on Facebook is three times larger than the second largest page-there are 30 million American users every month, and 85% of them have never followed any page.
    • The second largest Native American page on Facebook, with 400,000 users per month, 90% of whom have never followed any page.
    • The fifth-largest female page on Facebook, with 60 million American users every month, 90% of whom have never followed any page.
  • The troll farm mainly affects the United States, but it also targets the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Central and South American countries.
  • Facebook has conducted multiple studies to confirm that content that is more likely to get user engagement (likes, comments, and shares) is more likely to be a known bad type. Nonetheless, the company continues to rank content in user news sources based on the most engaged content.
  • Facebook prohibits pages from posting content that is only copied and pasted from other parts of the platform, but it will not enforce this policy against known bad actors. This makes it easy for foreign actors who don’t speak the local language to post fully copied content, but still attract a large audience. Once upon a time, as many as 40% of page views on U.S. pages went to pages that mainly featured non-original content or materials with limited originality.
  • Troll farms previously entered Facebook’s Instant Articles and Ad Breaks partnership program, which aims to help news organizations and other publishers monetize their articles and videos. Once upon a time, due to the lack of basic quality checks, as many as 60% of the reading of instant texts was transferred to content plagiarized from other places. This makes it easy for Troll Farms to mix in without being noticed, and even receive payments from Facebook.

How Facebook enabled troll farms and expanded its audience

The report pays particular attention to troll farms in Kosovo and Macedonia, which are run by people who do not necessarily understand American politics. However, due to the way Facebook news feed reward systems are designed, they can still have a significant impact on political discourse.


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