Shadowy Facebook account led to real-life Trump protests

At least three of the events co-organized on Facebook by a group the company now thinks was part of a coordinated disinformation network appear to have been held, and to have been attended by hundreds of people.

The events, in New York City and Springfield, Mo., were all co-hosted on Facebook by a group called the Resisters. All three events were critical of President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE.

Archived versions of the event pages showed that 674 people responded on Facebook to say that they would attend the “We Stand with DREAMers! Support DACA!” event in New York on Sept. 9 last year. Another 3,000 said they were interested in attending.

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The New York Post reported that “thousands” of people gathered in Midtown on Sept. 9 to protest Trump’s decision to unwind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed children brought to the U.S. illegally to live and work in the United States.

It appears to be the same event co-hosted by Resisters on Facebook, as it took place on the same date and at the same location as the group’s “We Stand with DREAMers! Support DACA!” event.

More than 2,000 people said they were interested in attending “The People's Protest. Springfield against Trump” in the Missouri town on Aug. 30, and 726 said that they planned to attend the event.

Springfield, Mo.’s NBC affiliate, KY3, and the Kansas City Star reported that hundreds of protesters showed up on that date to protest President Trump’s trip to Springfield at the time.

The third event that appears to have taken place was titled “Protest Trump and ideology of hate at Trump Tower!” Around 4,700 said they were interested in attending the event and 1,400 said they were attending on the Facebook page.

DNAInfo reported that thousands protested Trump at Trump Tower on Aug. 14, 2017, the same day and location of the event promoted on Facebook.

Reports at the time from The Hill and The Washington Post also highlighted the protest.

All three events were hosted by what appear to be legitimate groups in addition to the Resisters.

Facebook on Tuesday said “inauthentic” groups, including Resisters, created roughly 30 events. Facebook in a call with reporters highlighted fake pages set up by the groups, but said it had no evidence on whether the events actually took place.

There is some evidence that the events set up by Resisters were meant to piggy-back on existing, legitimate events by opponents of Trump.

Indivisible St. Louis told The Hill that its Springfield event was already being organized when Resisters contacted them on Facebook. They also said that they did not encounter any representatives from Resisters at the protest.

The Columbus Circle in New York protest similarly capitalized on nationwide outrage over Trump’s DACA policy and may have been organized regardless. Protests against the policy had already occurred early in September 2017.

Roger Ray of the Emerging Church in Springfield, said that the protest he was involved in would have happened regardless.

“I don’t doubt there were lots of fakes groups that might have tried to glom on, but they didn’t have any physical representation. They wouldn’t have had any influence,” he told The Hill in a phone interview.

It’s not clear who was behind the Resisters work.

Facebook executives did not blame Russia or the Russian troll group the Internet Research Agency (IRA), but said that the behavior matched past work by the IRA.

The IRA during the 2016 presidential election created events that were highlighted on Facebook, including one in New York City attended by thousands.

Multiple organizers told The Hill that they were frustrated by the possibility that the involvement of a fake account could undermine their actual cause and stressed that they were engaged in real organizing.

“I certainly was not inspired by Russia or anything like that,” Ray said.