Facebook suspended five accounts linked to Democratic operatives who engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in a bid to steer votes away from Alabama Republican Roy Moore during last year’s special Senate election.
The announcement comes following a New York Times report last week that exposed the scheme, in which the users created a Facebook page and imitated conservative Alabamians who weren’t satisfied with the Republican candidate while encouraging others to write in another candidate. Moore, whose campaign ultimately was clouded by allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while he was in his 30s, ended up losing the race to Democrat Doug Jones.
“We’ve recently removed five accounts run by multiple individuals for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook around the Alabama special election, and our investigation is ongoing,” Facebook said in a statement. “We take a strong stand against people or organizations that create networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are or what they’re doing.”
The scheme also involved creating thousands of fake Russian accounts on Twitter that began following Moore. This effort attracted attention from local and national media, falsely suggesting Russia was backing Moore’s candidacy.
“Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin,” read the headline of an article at The Montgomery Advertiser, just months before the election night. Other outlets shortly picked up the story.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, pointed out that the Moore campaign accused the Jones campaign and Democratic operatives of pulling a political stunt on Twitter and alerting friends in the media.
Jones said last week that he was “outraged” over the New York Times report and wants a federal investigation over the project.
“I’d like to see the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department look at this to see if there were any laws being violated and, if there were, prosecute those responsible,” he said. “These authorities need to use this example right now to start setting the course for the future to let people know that this is not acceptable in the United States of America.”
Jones went on to win against the embattled Republican, who lost the support of the party amid the sexual misconduct allegations, becoming the first Democratic senator from Alabama in more than 20 years.
One woman alleged that Moore had her touch him in private areas when she was just 14.
Moore’s campaign had called the allegations “baseless” and “the very definition of fake news.”
Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis and Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.