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By Kalhan Rosenblatt
Facebook says it has suspended five accounts that were being run by multiple people for “for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior” on the platform during the Alabama special election last year.
In a statement to NBC News, a Facebook spokesperson declined to name the account holders, but said an investigation into the improper behavior is ongoing.
“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. We’ve removed thousands of Pages, Groups, and accounts for this kind of behavior, as well as accounts that were violating our policies on spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior during the Alabama special election last year,” the platform said.
One of the accounts that Facebook suspended belonged to Jonathon Morgan, the chief executive of research firm New Knowledge. Morgan confirmed that his account had been suspended through a New Knowledge spokesperson.
Morgan told The Washington Post on Dec. 18 that he had engaged in an experiment with misleading online tactics during the 2017 special election in Alabama.
During race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, who was elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, Morgan told the Post he created a Facebook page under false pretenses to test his ability to appeal to conservative voters, according to the report.
“This was like an, ‘Is it possible,’ small-scale, almost like a thought experiment,” Morgan told the Post.
In a statement to NBC News, which was also posted to Morgan’s Twitter account, he said he was a “cyber-security researcher and expert with the intention to better understand and report on the tactics and effects of social media disinformation.”
Morgan’s statement referenced an article by The New York Times, which first reported the experiment’s existence.
“I did not participate in any campaign to influence the public and any characterization to the contrary misrepresents the research goals, methods and outcome of the project, and I never attended a presentation about the results as described in the article,” Morgan said.
Kalhan Rosenblatt is a reporter for NBC News, based in New York.