When Facebook removed dozens of groups dedicated to Canada’s anti-government “Freedom Convoy” protests earlier this month, it didn’t do so because of extremism or conspiracies rife within the protests. It was because the groups were being run by scam artists.
Networks of spammers and profiteers, some based as far afield as Vietnam or Romania, had set up the groups using fake or hacked Facebook accounts in an attempt to make money off of the political turmoil.
That foreign networks of social media scammers had seized on a divisive political issue may feel like somewhat of a throwback. Before investigations into Russian troll factories’ operations during the US presidential election and culture war conflicts over content moderation, one of the biggest challenges facing social media platforms was profiteers pushing fake news articles and spam for easy money. Hundreds of websites mimicking US news outlets pushed their content on social media, reaping ad revenue from the traffic they generated.
Platforms like Facebook have cracked down on such “inauthentic activity” since 2016, but the global misinformation industry remains. In recent years, these for-profit disinformation networks have seized on the popularity of conspiracy movements and far-right groups online, creating content aimed at anti-vaccine protesters and QAnon followers.
“It can be an extremely lucrative industry for people in other parts of the world to very closely monitor US and Canadian political…