Firm With Deep Ties to Facebook's Election Integrity Partners Busted for Meddling in Latin America Elections - 2020-10-02
A Washington D.C.-based PR firm was caught by Facebook in August running dozens of fake accounts in order to influence politics in Latin American countries. The firm, CLS Strategies, had 46 Facebook accounts, 41 Pages and 24 Instagram accounts taken down by Facebook for posting and running $3.6 million worth of ads under false identities in support of right-wing political parties in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Mexico. It was the first time a U.S. firm has had accounts removed from Facebook for violating the social media company's policies against coordinated inauthentic behavior.
The largest share of CLS Strategies' sock puppet content was deployed in Venezuela and promoted the political opposition to the country's president, Nicola Maduro, including figures like former presidential candidate Henrique Caprile and National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, according to a report from Stanford Internet Observatory. The CLS Strategies-managed Instagram account @FrenteLibreVzla posted a video in January 2019 claiming that Guaidó would lead the country to freedom, for example, while a Facebook page it managed, Fan Chavista, promoted statements made by U.S. President Donald Trump in support of Guaidó.
In Bolivia, CLS Strategies intervened in the country's politics to bolster the right-wing regime headed by Movimiento Demócrata Social party member Jeanine Áñez, the country's interim president. CLS Strategies set up and managed eleven pro-Áñez Facebook pages, the most popular being a page called "Todos con Áñez" (Everyone with Áñez), which attracted 2,786 likes in the seven months that it was active. Other pages like "Prohibido olvidar" ("Forbidden to Forget") focused mainly on discrediting the country's former socialist president Evo Morales, who was ousted following a contested 2019 election in a military-backed coup.