Facebook announced that it had uncovered websites that may have been intended to disrupt the coming mid-term elections. According to the Washington Post Facebook deleted 32 false pages and profiles that were created between March 2017 and May of this year. The misinformation websites lured nearly 300,000 people with ads, events and regular posts focused on race, fascism and feminism with the intent to spark backlash against Donald Trump. Facebook notified law enforcement officials before deleting the profiles Tuesday morning. The company also notified members of congress of the activity and will notify the real Facebook users who were swept up in the operation.
But it seems that some legitimate organizations have been caught up in the Facebook cleanup operation. Organizers in Washington D.C are angry with Facebook for taking down their legitimate page that was organizing a counter protest against a “Unite the Right 2.0” rally scheduled to take place in D.C on August 12th.
DCist, one one of organizers of the counter protest, say their counter-rally is legitimate and backed by a number of real organizations.
Dylan Petrohilos of “Resist This” said, “This was a legitimate Facebook event that was being organized by Washington, D.C. locals.” Petrohilos was a defendant in a rioting case during the Inauguration of Donald Trump.
Petrohilos said “Shut It Down DC” is the group organizing the counter protest. The group formed after known white supremacist Jason Kessle, organizer of the Charlottesville rally, announced plans for the D.C. rally. The counter protest will involve numerous local groups, including the D.C. Antifascist Collective, Black Lives Matter D.C., Hoods4Justice, and Smash Racism D.C.
Facebook issued a press release saying that the original creator of the “No Unite the Right 2 — DC” page was created in part with a fake “Resisters” account. Facebook did not explicitly connect the pages to the Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). According to U.S. intelligence officials the IRA is a source Russian misinformation and propaganda efforts. Facebook did however say it had “found evidence of some connections” between the IRA and whoever was behind the pages.
Facebook wrote; The Event – “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” – was scheduled to protest an August “Unite the Right” event in Washington. Inauthentic admins of the “Resisters” Page connected with admins from five legitimate pages to co-host the event. These legitimate pages unwittingly helped build interest in “No Unite Right 2 – DC” and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests.
Organizers say that the counter-protest will still take place. A legitimate replacement event page has been created. Organizers however are still angry with Facebook for removing the original page because it had numerous RSVPs and was the hub for discussion and planning.