In October 2019, Snopes first reported on a pro-Trump media outlet named The BL (“Beauty of Life”) “whose reach is rapidly expanding on Facebook and is linked in multiple ways to The Epoch Times,” a company already accused of Facebook violations. In November, we identified hundreds of fake accounts of largely Vietnamese origin used to promote BL-linked groups without disclosure. In that investigation, we argued that the outlet’s social media presence was “built on unambiguously inauthentic or fraudulent tactics.”
On Dec. 13, we challenged Facebook to explain its apparent inaction against this “textbook example” of coordinated inauthentic behavior, suggesting that Facebook’s response to The BL was “inconsistent with their own public statements that proclaim a commitment to rooting out such abuse.”
On Dec. 20, Facebook announced — citing its own “internal investigation” and “open source reporting” — that it had removed The BL’s Facebook presence entirely:
We … removed 610 accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts that originated in Vietnam and the US and focused primarily on the US and Vietnam … This activity primarily focused on The BL, a US-based media company, and its Pages, which were operated by individuals in the US and Vietnam. The people behind this activity made widespread use of fake accounts ... to manage Pages and Groups … Our investigation linked this activity to Epoch Media Group, a US-based media organization, and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf. ... The BL is now banned from Facebook. We are continuing to investigate all linked networks, and will take action as appropriate if we determine they are engaged in deceptive behavior.
Snopes had reached out to Facebook multiple times regarding The BL. Nearly every message was read hundreds of times by Facebook employees but only once — in November — did we receive a response. “We are reviewing this information, and, as always, we will take action if we find violating activity,” a spokesperson told us at the time.
We are reaching out to Facebook and will update this post with any new information.