In a statement, The Epoch Times said it had "no business relationship" with America Daily.
Many of the Facebook pages operated by The Epoch Times and its affiliates have followed a similar path. They started posting viral videos and uplifting news articles that were aggregated by other websites. They grew quickly, adding hundreds of thousands of followers a week at times. Then they were used to get people to buy Epoch Times subscriptions and promote more partisan content.
Some of the sites have found significant followers "seemingly overnight," said Renee DiResta, disinformation researcher at Stanford Internet Observatory. Many posts were shared thousands of times but received almost no comments – a ratio that, according to Ms. DiResta, is typical of "click farming" enhanced sites, companies that generate fake traffic by paying people to point to specific links click over and over again.
The Epoch Times denies the use of click farming or other illegal tactics to grow its sites. "The Epoch Times' social media strategies were different from those of the DKN and used Facebook's own advertising tools to reach a larger organic fan base," the outlet said, adding that the Epoch Times cut ties with Mr. Trung in 2018 .
However, last year The Epoch Times was banned from advertising on Facebook – where it had spent more than $ 1.5 million over seven months – after the social network announced that the outlet's pages had met its transparency requirements by obscuring its Avoided ad purchases.
This year, Facebook removed more than 500 pages and accounts linked to Truth Media, a network of anti-China sites that used fake accounts to reinforce their messages. The Epoch Times denied any involvement, but Facebook investigators said Truth Media had "shown some links to activity on the Epoch Media Group and NTD platform."
"We have taken enforcement action against Epoch Media and related groups several times," said a Facebook spokeswoman, who added that the social network would penalize the outlet if it broke more rules in the future.
Since banning The Epoch Times from advertising on Facebook, The Epoch Times has moved much of its operations to YouTube, where it has spent more than $ 1.8 million on ads as of May 2018, according to Google's public political advertising database.