USA Today Denies Involvement With Millions Of Fake Facebook Followers

REUTERS/Larry Downing

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Seven USA Today affiliated Facebook pages lost an average of more than half of their Facebook followers after the social media company dismantled a network of fake accounts. The newspaper denied involvement with this fake account operation and claims to have notified Facebook of the inauthentic likes.

Facebook announced Friday that large publishers should expect to lose no more than three percent of their followers after a purging of fake accounts.

USA Today’s main page lost nearly six million followers, dropping 38 percent, as of Sunday afternoon. USA Today’s “cruise log” page dropped 77 percent since the announcement, and USA Today’s opinion page lost 73 percent of its followers. Other USA Today affiliated pages — sports, life, college and travel — all lost more than 40 percent of their likes.

News outlets such as Vox, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Hill all experienced a loss of less than one percent of their followers, as of Sunday afternoon.

Stephanie Tackach, a USA Today spokeswoman, told The Daily Caller, “Not only did no one knowingly use these fake accounts to grow or stimulate traffic, but as I mention we were the ones who noticed the suspicious activity and flagged it to our partners at Facebook.”


Tackach did not respond to an inquiry about when USA Today notified Facebook. The outlet’s former head of social media content and strategy, Jamie Mottram, bragged in January that the newspaper was the “fastest-growing FB page in news.”  Fake page likes can boost content’s popularity on search engines and the Facebook timeline.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment about when USA Today let them know about the fake followers.

Leading up to Facebook’s announcement Friday, USA Today had experienced massive growth while other outlets were struggling on the social media site.

USA Today’s Exceptional Facebook Growth Over The Last 6 Months

USA Today's Facebook page grew at a record rate (CrowdTangle Data)

Updated to reflect that Jamie Mottram is no longer with USA Today.