SAN JOSE, – Facebook has banned the Epoch Times, a news outlet that was reportedly hiding its spending on pro-Trump ads, from buying ads on its platform.
According to an NBC News investigation published this week, the New York-based outlet spent $1.5 million on thousands of pro-Trump ads in the past six months, more than anyone besides the president’s campaign itself. Epoch Times’ revenue reportedly skyrocketed as it transformed itself from an entity that focused on anti-communism messages for Chinese Americans to one that exploited the United States’ political divisions to spread conspiracy theories and appeal to supporters of President Donald Trump.
“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 spokesman said Friday. Epoch Times’ Facebook pages remain on the site because the outlet was found to be violating the company’s ad policies – which prohibit disguising the origin of an ad – but not necessarily its community guidelines.
The Epoch Times is closely tied to Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual community that wants to take down China’s government, NBC News reported. That is reportedly why the outlet has embraced Trump – because Falun Gong’s devout practitioners “believe that Trump was sent by heaven to destroy the Communist Party,” a former Epoch Times writer told NBC News.
Falun Gong’s outreach, according to the report, includes the Epoch Media Group (the Facebook pages, YouTube channels) and Shen Yun, the dance troupe whose elaborate performances are laced with religious, anti-communism messages.
Another former writer for the outlet compared the Epoch Times to a Russian troll farm, telling NBC News that writers were subject to conservative editorial restrictions that included not being critical of Trump or covering stories involving homosexuality. The outlet also pushed QAnon and Spygate conspiracy theories.
Facebook established political-ad transparency rules the year after the 2016 U.S. elections. After coming under scrutiny from progressive newsletter and journalists, the Epoch Times began to place pro-Trump ads under different entities, such as Honest Paper and Pure American Journalism, according to NBC News. That’s why Facebook pulled the plug on future ad spending by the company.