Laura Halferty wrote a great primer the other day on how to spot Twitter bots and Russian trolls on the platform. If you haven’t read it already, click here.
Now I’m going to tell you about spammers and trolls on Facebook – based off my years of experience as both a user, and a political blogger.
First, let’s talk about the trolls. Troll accounts are sometimes also used by spammers, since they have some parallel goals. Facebook troll accounts aren’t just posing as individual users, they’re often pages that may or not be blatantly obvious.
Trolling isn’t always a bad thing. I’m going to tell you about one troll page that I own, and use for comic relief. It’s called The Southern Gentleman. It’s used to mock Trump supporters, a local libertarian nutjob who owns a page with a similar name, and sometimes post articles to drive traffic to my sites. Yes, I troll and make money using Facebook, there is no point denying it.
Using a variety of methods, I trick right-wing nuts and spammers into making hateful comments that I can use to get their accounts suspended. If you hit the right ones, you can disable or seriously hurt their money-making operations, which I will touch upon in a bit. Trolling as this page, or others that I own, it’s possible to get some funny screenshots for the amusement of followers as well.
Now let’s talk about the spam and financial aspect of it. With the right methods and connections, it is possible to make a living simply by spamming links with your ad code in them to Facebook groups, pages, etc. Nearly every Facebook group I or my backup accounts belong to is constantly hit with fake news spammers from around the world.
Here are some screenshots from a pro-Confederacy group I joined. This user, along with many others, claims to be from the United States, but accidentally left location on when posting to the group.
A few good signs that a website is not legitimate include sensational headlines, the same users dumping it into group after group, and a recent offshore registration with only a one year term.
This is the message I got about 45 minutes after reporting the spam account to Facebook. I’ll update this article if they remove it.
If you’re questioning the veracity of a domain, simply head over to WhoIs, search for the domain, and make a judgement call.
American-based groups are usually more professional. Many of them pretend to be political organizations and/or use domain names to appear as legitimate news organizations. As an example, the owners of Occupy Democrats also control washingtonpress.com which is apparent if you spend enough time on their Facebook page.
I’ve reported and shut down some of their spam accounts, but they create new profiles and pages as quickly as Facebook shuts reported ones down. For me, this is personal, as Omar Rivero, one of the twins who created Occupy Democrats, used a few trolls to harass me and other people I know for speaking out against them.
Just like you can block trolls and bots on Twitter, you can block and remove both spammers and trolls, as well as the domains they work for on Facebook. If you belong to a political group and it’s infested with spam, alert an admin to it. If they ignore your report, chances are they’re getting paid off to allow these fake accounts continued access. Exploiting our heated partisan divide is a multi-million dollar business, and everyone is rushing to cash in on it.
In closing, mid-term elections are rapidly closing in on us. Don’t get distracted by the trolls and spammers, and be sure to vote like your children’s future depends on it.
Right before I hit “publish” on this article, I got this notification that another account I reported was removed from Facebook. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s a good start.