“It sounds like the Russians, but instead comes from Americans,” Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google, told the newspaper.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told CNN that the platform had removed multiple accounts for violating its policies to have and maintain multiple accounts. A Twitter spokesman confirmed that several accounts had been removed for violations of their platform manipulation and spam policies.
Both platforms said they are continuing to review the accounts, which the Washington Post said were part of the Turning Point Actions campaign.
Austin Smith, field director of Turning Point Action, explained to the Post in a statement “Like everyone else, Turning Point Action̵
“Many positions that TPA had planned for fieldwork would be cut all the way down, but TPA managed to re-imagine these roles and work with our marketing partners, turning some into a virtual and online activist model,” he said.
Turning Point USA told CNN that it has no comment on the Washington Post report.
Concerns over misinformation on social media have been at the forefront of the presidential election as platforms have struggled with how to deal with a president eagerly sharing rumors, unconfirmed viral videos and conspiracy theories.
Facebook and Twitter promised earlier this year to crack down on misinformation, but their responses over the summer to misleadingly edited political videos and malicious posts about Covid-19 were often lacking – and too slow.
The operation appears to have closed before it could gain much traction on Facebook or the rest of the Internet. This reflects what happened around the midterm elections in 2018, when the Russian trolls’ online efforts – as far as is publicly known – were stopped and small.
The trolls were far more successful in gaining followers and engagement in 2016, although it is not known how much of a possible impact their work had on the election.
CNN’s DJ Judd and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.