Facebook said Thursday it will permanently ban from its platform an Arizona-based marketing firm running what experts described as a domestic “troll farm” — in a probe of the deceptive behavior prompted by a Washington Post article last month.
The firm, Rally Forge, was “working on behalf of Turning Point USA,” Facebook concluded in an investigation that led to the removal of 200 accounts and 55 pages, as well as 76 Instagram accounts — many of them operated by teenagers in the Phoenix area. The fake accounts, some with either cartoonlike Bitmoji profiles or images generated by artificial intelligence, complemented the real accounts of users involved in the effort, which largely entailed leaving comments sympathetic to President Trump and other conservative causes across social media.
Facebook stopped short of penalizing Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, or its 26-year-old president, Charlie Kirk, saying it could not determine the extent to which the group’s leaders were aware of the specific violations carried out on their behalf, such as the use of fake accounts. Twitter also acted against the operation on Thursday, suspending 262 accounts involved in “platform manipulation and spam” — in addition to the several hundred accounts already removed last month following questions from The Post — but similarly did not boot Turning Point USA, a tax-exempt nonprofit founded in 2012, or its affiliates from the online platform.