How Fake Influence Campaigns on Facebook Lured Real People | Tech Industry

Andrew Batcher, 37, a Washington-based activist who is an administrator for the Facebook page of the group Smash Racism — one of those that the Resisters later invited to act as a co-host of their event page — said many local activists had traveled to Charlottesville last year to protest the original rally. He said he was there when a Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators, killing a woman.

He said groups would protest the “Unite the Right II” rally in their own city regardless of whether the Resisters page had moved first to create an event page for it. But because the Resisters’ event page was up, he said, it made sense to reach out via Mr. Orsinger and essentially take it over, rather than create a redundant page and risk fracturing the potential audience.

“There wasn’t much on the page before we were added,” Mr. Batcher said. “The content, when it was taken down, was all from us.”

On July 1, the “Natasha Shipley” account reached out to Workers Against Racism seeking assistance with the Resisters. Reached via Facebook, a spokesman for WAR, who declined to give his name, citing security threats, said it was common for inexperienced but politically minded to reach out for help organizing events.

WAR provided some advice to “Natasha” about fixing problems with the date and time on the event page, he said, and she made WAR a co-host. The group thought it was odd when “Natasha” disappeared for 17 days, then resurfaced and said she had been sick, he said. By then, local Washington activists had essentially taken over the event page and filled it out.

Messages from “Mary” and “Natasha” are now redacted in Facebook’s system, so The Times was able to review correspondence only from the side of Mr. Orsinger and WAR.

Facebook has said little about the specific accounts that it deemed fake, other than that there was more than one inauthentic administrator with the Resisters page, which connected with administrators of five legitimate pages to act as a co-host for the event. Facebook declined to comment on the “Mary” and “Natasha” accounts.

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