Facebook has banned pro-Trump news outlet The Epoch Times from any further advertising on its platform.
As NBC News observed, the organization “spent more money on pro-Trump Facebook advertisements than any group other than the Trump campaign.”
The ban which NBC News reported August 22 will not scour Epoch Times content from the platform. Facebook's ban only impacts paper's ability to buy advertising. It had reportedly spent “$2 million worth of ads that promoted the president and conspiracy theories about his political enemies” with no less than $450,000 on thousands of ads from various accounts it managed in the past 30 days.
Epoch Times’s spending was highlighted by left-wing journalist Judd Legum’s newsletter Popular Info on May 8. NBC News picked up the story a few months later. Legum was the editor in chief and founder of left-leaning political news website ThinkProgress before he launched his new newsletter.
Legum noted in the August 26 newsletter that “Facebook announced it was banning all future ads from the Epoch Times because of the publication's deceptive practices.” He followed this by touting his outlet’s power and influence, calling for donations by proclaiming, “this is the power of independent accountability journalism. You can support this work by becoming a paid subscriber.”
When NBC News picked up the story, it editorialized by referring to the Epoch Times as somehow pushing “conspiracy ads.” Epoch Times may have violated a Facebook rule by pushing its ads under other names such as Honest Paper, Pure American Journalism, Best News, and Patriots of America.
A Facebook spokesperson commented that "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.” The spokesperson added "We acted on additional accounts today and they are no longer able to advertise with us."
NBC News wrote that “the spokesperson explained that ads must include disclaimers that accurately represent the name of the ad's sponsors.” The network described this as a tactic to “hide its multimillion-dollar spending on dark-money ads, in effect bypassing Facebook's political advertising transparency rules.”
Epoch Times itself has an unusual background in that it was founded by Chinese Falun Gong practitioners. Falun Gong is a Chinese religious movement “with the stated goal of taking down China’s government” and believes, according to NBC News, “in a coming judgment day that will send communists to hell.” In addition these adherents believe that President Donald Trump is helping to accelerate this coming judgment day.
Its ads were described by NBC News in another article as featuring "unidentified spokespeople" who "thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the 'Deep State,' and criticize 'fake news' media."
Epoch Times’s Editor-in-Chief Jasper Fakkert defended President Trump in an open letter to Buzzfeed:
“We see the Trump administration’s efforts to change socialist policies in America, as well as set policies to counter infiltration and subversion by China, as remarkable reversals from past policies, and sincere efforts that, if fully realized, will benefit America and the world as a whole."