Facebook has banned The Epoch Times, a pro-Donald Trump, pro-Conservative publication, from advertising on its platform after it tried to sneak ads past its review system, NBC News reported on Thursday.
The news comes after reports surfaced that The Epoch Times had spent more than $1.5 million on pro-Trump Facebook advertising in the past six months, making it the second-largest source of pro-Trump Facebook ads on the platform after the Trump campaign.
Its ads were described by NBC as featuring “unidentified spokespeople” who “thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the ‘Deep State,’ and criticize ‘fake news’ media.”
Up until mid-July, these ads were run through accounts that clearly showed their affiliation to The Epoch Times via a Facebook page called “ Coverage of the Trump presidency by The Epoch Times.”
But after journalists started looking at whether these ads violated Facebook’s policies, NBC discovered that the Epoch Times shifted funding to other accounts with names such as Honest Paper, Patriots of America, Pure American Journalism, and Best News in attempt to hide its connection to the pro-Trump ads it was publishing.
Now, Facebook is taking action.
“Over the past year, we removed accounts associated with the Epoch Times for violating our ad policies, including trying to get around our review systems. We acted on additional accounts today and they are no longer able to advertise with us,” a spokeswoman for Facebook wrote in a statement emailed to Business Insider.
The spokesperson shared a link to the specific rule that the publication violated, which is listed in its advertising policies: “Ads must not use tactics that are intended to circumvent our ad review process or other enforcement systems. This includes techniques that attempt to disguise the ad’s content or destination page.”
‘The Epoch Times is a nonpartisan media that is dedicated to truthful and accurate reporting’
Business Insider reached out to Epoch Times Editor-in-Chief Jasper Fakker for comment but did not immediately hear back.
The Epoch Times is a non-profit publication that’s tied to a Chinese religious group named Falun Gong. According to NBC, Falun Gong seeks to undermine the Chinese government and sees Trump as a force for that goal.
In a previous statement to Business Insider, Fakker acknowledged the publication’s connections to Falun Gong but said that it isn’t owned by the religious group. He also denied that its pro-Trump ads on Facebook were meant to be political.
“NBC News’ statement is incorrect,” Fakker said in an email exchange with Business Insider. “The Epoch Times advertisements are subscription advertisements for the print version of The Epoch Times. In the advertisements we discuss The Epoch Times editorial and feature content and encourage people to subscribe to us.
“Facebook has specific rules for advertising that require anyone — including a publisher like ourselves — to label content if it touches on social issues or politics, something some news content naturally does. The Epoch Times is a nonpartisan media that is dedicated to truthful and accurate reporting.”
Additional reporting by Rob Price.
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