Facebook let a fake page posing as the Trump campaign run political ads

Even as its executives were out fi...

Posted: Oct 31, 2019 10:01 AM

Even as its executives were out fiercely defending its policies on political ads this month, Facebook was allowing an obviously fake page that purported to be linked to President Trump's reelection campaign to run ads on its platform. The ads directed users to an online donation portal that claimed to be a way to donate to the Trump campaign.

The Trump campaign told CNN on Wednesday that the page, called "DonaldTrumpCampaign," was not affiliated with the real campaign and called it a "scam." After CNN contacted Facebook for comment, the company removed the page, saying it broke the platform's rules on impersonation. The page's permissions to run political ads had been "mistakenly applied," Facebook said.

The discovery raises new questions about how Facebook is policing the political ads it allows to run and if it is doing enough to stop bad actors from taking advantage of the platform. A covert Russian troll group targeted ads at American voters ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The ads run by the page parroted Trump talking points and attacks on the media, along with calls to "drain the swamp." The ads linked to a website that was designed to look like it belonged to the Trump campaign and included a donation page.

Facebook has added steps designed to vet people who run political ads on their platform and to ensure they are in the country where they are advertising. In the US, these steps include providing Facebook with a copy of a government-issued identification and a US address.

The US address that Facebook listed as being associated with the fake page belongs to a grocery store in Los Angeles. Employees who answered the phone there said they did not know about the page.

Although the phone number listed by Facebook as belonging to the advertiser appeared to be a California number, when CNN called the number it was rerouted to an online phone service -- meaning it could be operated from anywhere.

"This page violates our policies against impersonation and is not allowed on Facebook. We've taken down the Page and removed the political ad authorization, which was mistakenly applied," a Facebook spokesperson told CNN.

PayPal, which was being used to collect the money given to the site, shut down the account soon after being contacted by CNN for comment. PayPal is investigating, the company told CNN.

"President Trump has been wildly successful and millions of Americans want to help contribute to his re-election campaign. Unfortunately, this attracts bad actors who attempt to scam people out of their hard-earned money under false pretenses," the Trump campaign's communication director told CNN when he learned of the page on Wednesday.

A Twitter user alerted CNN to the page on Wednesday. The user initially thought the page was associated with the Trump campaign before realizing it was fake.

The Facebook page was set up in March 2019. Although one of the new measures Facebook introduced around political ads was a transparency tool that details where some larger Facebook pages are run from, this page, which had fewer than 100 followers, did not include that disclosure. The page only appears to have begun running ads on the platform over the past week.

The page had spent about $100 on Facebook ads which had been seen more than 1,000 times, according to Facebook data.

A corresponding Instagram page setup in March had almost 4,000 followers. The people behind the effort appear to have recently set up a Twitter account which had less than 100 followers. The Twitter page appeared to have been removed by the user shortly before the publication of this story.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319381

Reported Deaths: 7354
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22264265
Hinds20634421
Harrison18381316
Rankin13862282
Jackson13677248
Madison10234224
Lee10050176
Jones8458167
Forrest7821153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6498149
Lamar633688
Lafayette6298120
Washington5418136
Bolivar4835133
Panola4663110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4597146
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc424973
Monroe4155135
Union415576
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4007111
Hancock386087
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3366110
Alcorn324172
Scott319374
Yazoo314171
Itawamba305077
Adams304885
Copiah299766
Coahoma298383
Simpson298189
Tippah291568
Prentiss283561
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267083
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George251951
Newton248563
Tishomingo231267
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210459
Holmes190374
Clay187554
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135247
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite126142
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica108027
Jefferson Davis107833
Claiborne103030
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96628
Franklin85023
Quitman81816
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 547873

Reported Deaths: 11274
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809141565
Mobile41984826
Madison35629523
Tuscaloosa26147458
Shelby25580254
Montgomery25075611
Baldwin21805313
Lee16248175
Calhoun14710325
Morgan14618285
Etowah14160362
Marshall12446230
Houston10757288
Elmore10292212
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10155250
Cullman9928200
Lauderdale9591248
DeKalb8963189
Talladega8455184
Walker7330280
Autauga7229113
Blount6937139
Jackson6905113
Colbert6406139
Coffee5622126
Dale4929114
Russell454541
Chilton4470116
Franklin430783
Covington4267122
Tallapoosa4127154
Escambia401180
Chambers3723123
Dallas3606156
Clarke352861
Marion3237106
Pike313978
Lawrence3124100
Winston283272
Bibb267664
Geneva257081
Marengo250665
Pickens236662
Barbour234559
Hale226678
Butler223771
Fayette217762
Henry193743
Cherokee187245
Randolph186944
Monroe179141
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155157
Cleburne153144
Lamar146237
Lowndes142053
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113230
Coosa111429
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
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