The decision follows an NBC News report that The Epoch Times had spent $2 million worth of ads supporting the president and promoting conspiracy theories about his political opponents, more than any other organization outside Trump’s re-election campaign and more than what most of the Democratic presidential candidates spent on their own campaigns in the same time frame.
“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,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We acted on additional accounts today and they are no longer able to advertise with us.”
In May, journalist Judd Legum noted in his newsletter how many of the ads were in violation of Facebook’s policies. Through the account called “Coverage of the Trump Presidency by The Epoch Times,” the news organization spent $1.5 million on more than 11,000 Trump-friendly Facebook ads within the last year. None of the ads was labelled with a “Paid for by” disclosure, as prescribed by the Facebook rules on political advertisements. The Epoch Times itself is registered as an NPO and had placed its ads through accounts that clearly labelled their affiliation to the wider organization and donors, yet they didn’t clarify which organization as the Facebook rules require.
After the report by Legum, the Epoch Times’ official accounts were no longer running any political ads, according to searches of Facebook’s transparency tool Ad Library. However, multiple pages such as Honest Paper, Patriots of America, Pure American Journalism and Best News started promoting the political articles of The Epoch Times. By not disclosing that The Epoch Times was behind the new ads, the company was again in violation of Facebook’s rules, resulting in the latest ban. The Epoch Times reportedly has spent more than $450,000 on thousands of ads from these five accounts since mid-July.
NBC News reporters reached out to The Epoch Times in June, prompting a defensive open letter from the site’s publisher, Stephen Gregory. He wrote that “The Epoch Times’ subscription advertisements have no political agenda” and that “the only reason some of them are run as “political advertising” is that online platforms require them to be categorized as such.”
Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican strategist who advised The Epoch Times on how to break into the broader conservative movement, told NBC News that creating multiple pages and accounts without clearly labelling their connection to the wider organization was a common practice used by public relations or political campaigns to bring in subscribers and donors.
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