For the past two months, Facebook has pledged, time and again, the pursuit of transparency when it comes to revealing the extent of the fraudulent Russia-linked accounts swamping its platform. But that claim has flown in the face of evidence on hand. Not only has Facebook refused to release the accounts in question to the public, but the company’s estimates of users exposed to fraudulent Russian material have only continued to rise, from some 10 million users in early October to, as of last week, nearly 150 million users.
All the while, Facebook has maintained that it’s cleaned up all of the suspected accounts, preventing them from reaching millions more users. But as the thousands of Russia-linked Twitter handles released this week by the House Intelligence Committee illustrate, that doesn’t appear to be true, either.
A ThinkProgress examination of the accounts in question reveal that at least three of the suspended, Russia-linked Twitter accounts link back to multiple Facebook pages — pages that remain live even after last week’s congressional hearings.
One of those Facebook accounts is the “Secret Report” page, which features Donald Trump in both its profile and cover photos. The account provides much of the stilted English that’s become associated with fake Russian pages, with its “About” section saying the page provides “Important information of the world, with the most incredible of the moment, every minute news that if it is worth reading[.]”
A second Facebook account connected to the Russia-linked Twitter accounts, “Report Secret News,” also remains up — and also features multiple pictures of Trump.
While the Facebook pages weren’t especially popular, their continued existence nonetheless points to the ongoing issues roiling Facebook, which appears unable to even remove all of the sites attached to the small sampling of suspect accounts provided by Twitter.
Indeed, it wasn’t just one Russia-linked Twitter feed, flagged and delivered to Congress, that tracked back to these Facebook pages, but at least three.
All three of these Twitter accounts linked in their bios to ReportSecret.com, a page pumping out far-right, pro-Trump stories, ranging from posts praising Donald Trump, Jr. to conspiracies about deaths surrounding Hillary Clinton. The homepage of ReportSecret.com links to both of these Facebook accounts, as well as LinkedIn, Dribbble, and Google+ accounts. (Google has claimed that it didn’t identify any “political posts in English from state-linked actors on Google+,” despite ThinkProgress’ reporting otherwise.)
Two of these Russia-linked feeds flagged by Twitter and submitted to Congress, both created in August 2017 and each tied to ReportSecret.com Facebook pages, posed as young female Trump supporters. The @AprrilsBruss feed, which includes #MAGA in its bio, linked to ReportSecret.com in its bio, as did the @angeelistr Twitter account. The latter was recently singled out by Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab for using automation software and URL shorteners. Wrote Nimmo, “[O]ne recently-exposed fake account called ‘Angee Dixson’, which used the avatar image of German supermodel Lorena Rae, shared a large number of far-right political posts. Every one was marked with the URL shortener ift.tt.”
ReportSecret.com further linked to the @SecretReportt Twitter account, which was also included within Twitter’s list of suspended, Russia-linked accounts. Messages sent to the email account affiliated with ReportSecret.com went unanswered, as did questions sent to Facebook.
It remains unclear why Facebook has allowed these pages to remain live. But their continued existence points either to the company’s distinct lack of transparency, or its continued inability to snuff out these fraudulent accounts — or both.