莎拉·哈克比·桑德斯支持者 Facebook 组的阴暗历史是关于远远超过外国影响。
As part of our continuing coverage of election misinformation and disinformation efforts, we’ve been examining coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) on Facebook. Our latest investigation into the private Facebook group Sarah Huckabee Sanders Supporters has found mounting evidence of such behavior having occurred for nearly three years. Foreign-run fake accounts have littered the group’s posts with pro-Trump politics, hate, and disinformation. Fake account admins have also showed hints of foreign influence, possibly from North Macedonia. An unwitting American citizen moderated the group from Kentucky for more than two years. Several of the admins have been removed, yet the group lives on.
Pro-Trump content, some of which is disinformation, has been posted in the group by foreign accounts as far back as 2017. In addition to disinformation, some posts within the group, such as one suggesting “using deadly force” on migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, appeared hateful, and even Islamophobic. The examples below come from accounts that no longer exist.:
The group’s membership count has stayed steady at just over 20,000 members since around August 2018, the same time its head administrator apparently was removed because it was a fake account. That number of members is hardly considered large compared to other political groups on Facebook. For example, Snopes reported on a Macedonian-run group for White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany as having more than 456,000 members. Another example was the Ukrainian page World USA, which we reported had almost a million followers.
The American Moderator
A woman named Diane was the lone moderator in Sarah Huckabee Sanders Supporters. For privacy purposes, we have chosen to publish only her first name in our story. She remained listed as a moderator in the group for more than two years even after several admins disappeared around August 2018.
According to public records, Diane lives in Kentucky and is a real person. Snopes reporters attempted to reach out to her by phone and email, but did not receive a response.
In order to find out when she became a moderator in the group, we first looked at all of the data and research Snopes reporters have gathered about the group since 2018. According to our research, she was moderating the group as far back as July 31, 2018. Before we contacted Facebook for comment for this story, she was still listed as a moderator, but that changed after we reached out to the company:
Facebook users cannot become moderators without approval from admins, so this means the foreign fake account admins had a part in recruiting Diane, an American, to moderate the group.
On June 10, 2018, the foreign admin fake account named Kristina Cruz posted the Trumpian word, “YUGE!” More than a month later, Diane asked Cruz for help in the comments section under the post. On July 25, 2018, Diane said there were not yet any moderators in Sarah Huckabee Sanders Supporters:
One day later on July 26, 2018, another Facebook user responded to Diane: “Diane I think this group has bogus admins.” The other user also noted that the admins have few or no friends.
Diane then asked: “Really? I’m probably NOT as ‘savvy’ as you on fb matters – but! – HOW and/ or WHY does THIS happen? If true, I don’t get it….WHY would anyone create a ‘cool’ group and be ‘absent’? P.S If true…do you know HOW I CAN (,and selected few) take over?”
Less than five days later, Diane was recruited to be a moderator.
Our Questions for Facebook
We reached out to Facebook for comment, asking about the Sarah Huckabee Sanders Supporters group hosting what appeared to be foreign-pushed disinformation with hints of ties to specific countries, one example being North Macedonia. We also told them about Diane, apparently an unwitting American woman living in Kentucky, asking what protocols Facebook has in place when an unwitting American is brought on to unknowingly be involved in managing part of a foreign disinformation operation.
Our second question mentioned the 2018 removals of admins Cruz and Janevska, and that someone by the name of Ashley Lavrijssen disappeared for months. We asked why she reappeared, why Lillian Nguyen is still there, and what they could tell us about the removal of the accounts for Cruz and Janevska.
The final question posed to Facebook was the following: “Over the last two years, Snopes has internally documented a large number of foreign fake accounts and their disinfo posts in the group. A study of the commenters led us to believe the vast majority are Americans. Action was taken on what appeared to be at least three admins in the past, with one reappearing later. With all of this in mind, why has the Facebook Group not been removed?”
“Our Community Standards apply across our services, including in Groups. We have reduced this Group’s distribution — which is how we treat this kind of misinformation — and will continue monitoring.”
Lillian Nguyen Disappears
After receiving this response from Facebook, the account for the fake admin named Nguyen disappeared. Diane also no longer appears as a moderator for the group, but is still active on Facebook. The last remaining account to manage the group is the fake account admin Lavrijssen.
We asked Facebook why it removed the account for Nguyen, but not Lavrijssen. We also pointed out that the group hosts not just misinformation, but also what appeared to be disinformation. Disinformation implies intent on the part of the accounts posting dubious content. We also asked again if the company had any comment on Diane, an American, being recruited to moderate the group. We did not receive a response.
Despite all of this, Sarah Huckabee Sanders Supporters is still active. Thousands of Americans have been influenced by its content, its lone admin is a foreign fake account, and a woman in Kentucky moderated a foreign influence operation for more than two years.