- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Facebook on Wednesday said it removed dozens of accounts from its flagship social network and its sister-service Instagram that have ties to President Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone.

In a statement, Facebook said it connected Stone to a network of various social media pages and profiles involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in the United States.

“The people behind this activity used fake accounts — some of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to pose as residents of Florida, post and comment on their own content to make it appear more popular than it is, evade enforcement and manage Pages,” Facebook said.

Facebook said it removed a total of 54 Facebook accounts, 50 Facebook Pages and four Instagram accounts tied to the network, including Stone’s personal profile on Instagram.

Several of the pages had connections to the Proud Boys, a fraternal group with close ties to Stone banned from Facebook in 2018, and some had acquired followers from other countries to make them seem more popular than they were, the social media company said in a statement.

The pages and accounts posted about “local politics in Florida, Roger Stone and his Pages, websites, books, and media appearances, a Florida land and water resources bill, the hacked materials released by Wikileaks ahead of the US 2016 election, candidates in the 2016 primaries and general election, and the Roger Stone trial,” Facebook said.

“We first started looking into this network as part of our investigation into the Proud Boys’ attempts to return to Facebook after we had designated and banned them from the platform,” Facebook added. “Our investigation linked this network to Roger Stone and his associates.”

Facebook also said the individuals behind the accounts spent less than $308,000 on paid advertisements placed across both platforms.

Stone, a 67-year-old Florida resident, is currently scheduled to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons next Tuesday, July 14, to begin serving a 40-month sentence for convictions brought as a result of the government’s probe into the 2016 presidential race led by Robert Mueller.

In its statement, Facebook said it identified the full scope of the network it ultimately tied to Stone following the public release of search warrants issued as part of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

Mr. Mueller’s probe led to Stone being convicted last year of all seven felony charges he faced related to lying about his conversations involving WikiLeaks, the website that published stolen material during the race damaging to Mr. Trump’s rival in the race, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including charges of obstruction, witness tampering and perjury.

FBI Special Agent Andrew Mitchell wrote in a court filing unsealed in April that a witness interviewed by investigators in 2016 said he purchased “a couple hundred fake Facebook accounts” as part of his work for Stone.

Stone accused Facebook of censoring and defaming him in a lengthy statement issued later Wednesday and said it was “categorically and provably false” to say he utilized or controlled any fake account on any platforms, or that he operated any accounts with ties to the Proud Boys.

“The establishment of a legitimate web or blog site to produce legitimate and constitutionally protected content and to open a social media page to promote or post that unique content, as I have done for each of the five books I have written for example, neither violates the rules of Facebook or the law,” Stone’s statement said in part.

“Because the claims by those taking this action are defamatory I will bring immediate legal action against the corporate parents of the social media platforms. It will soon be put up or shut up time. Words in a press release are not proof,” he said.

Stone was previously banned from Twitter, Facebook’s top competitor, in late 2017.

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