Upper Arlington woman linked to deceptive Facebook network

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A network of Facebook pages that appear to represent a variety of diverse conservative groups actually belongs to one Upper Arlington woman, a Snopes report found.

Kelly Monroe Kullberg, 59, a far-right Christian evangelist, was behind all 24 Facebook accounts traced by Snopes, an independent fact-checking website that began in 1994.

The pages, which no longer appear online, had financial ties to Kullberg directly or through organizations she founded or helps lead, Snopes reported. They were followed by 1.4 million users, though some could have overlapped. Among the pages were Jews and Christians for America, Nurses and Doctors for America, and Blacks for Trump.

Kullberg, who describes herself as an evangelical Christian, has authored or edited four books on Christian faith, including the 1996 best-seller “Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians.” he’s also organized, or been active in, several evangelical Christian lobbying organizations.

According to the report by Snopes, many of the pages contained anti-Muslim rhetoric. Specific claims on the Facebook pages included: Survivors of the Parkland High School massacre are funded by billionaire Democratic Party donor George Soros, the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in France was started by Muslims, and that Islam is not a religion.

Alex Kasprak, author of the Snopes report, said the various claims seem to stem from a single, far-right view.

Snopes said the Facebook pages were promoting the re-election of President Donald Trump, and 10 of the pages were named in support of Trump.

In an emailed statement to The Dispatch, Kullberg said her goal was to “discern truth,” similar to what she has said is the purpose of The Veritas Foundation she founded, a non-profit organization that works with Christian students at colleges to host discussions on faith on campuses around the country.

“Public social media pages are often used to help experts on national security, faith and a host of other topics shine light on the persecution of both Christians and Muslims, such as the fact that 3 million Muslim Uyghurs are now in Chinese concentration camps, the horror of the Christchurch (Australia) massacre and that 500,000 girls in America are at risk for female genital mutilation,” Kullberg wrote.

“Any errors in posting were made with regret,” she wrote. “The goal of this work is to discern truth and the nature of love in relation to the challenging issues of our times.”

Kullberg included screenshots from two of the pages in question and one of her organizational Facebook pages — American Association of Evangelicals — sharing news articles about violence against Christians and Muslims with commentary that was not anti-Muslim.

Kullberg declined to answer any direct questions from The Dispatch.

Following the original report published on May 15, Snopes reported on May 26 that all 24 pages had been taken offline. All content on the websites that linked Kullberg to the network has been removed and replaced with notes saying the pages are undergoing upgrades.

Facebook representatives did not immediately respond to questions about the network from The Dispatch.

Kasprak, who worked part-time for two months on the investigation, said connecting the network to Kullberg should not imply that she alone was responsible for the content.

“I don’t know the operations,” Kasprak said, adding that other people might have contributed to the pages.

The strategy the network employed, imitating various demographic groups to spread divisive messages, was similar to tactics used by the Russian state-sponsored Internet Research Agency to sow discord in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, he said.

“It’s using similar tactics for a different purpose,” Kasprak said.

Domestic deception, however, is not addressed as often, or with the same level of urgency, as foreign interference, even though it happens much more often.

“We (at Snopes) spend a lot of time researching Facebook abuse,” Kasprak said, “and the scale of the problem is always huge, because Facebook is huge.”

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@JerrodAMogan