Vietnam Veterans of America is calling on the government to investigate fake social media accounts targeting veterans online.
This comes after a story in the Wall Street Journal that featured 33-year-old Iraq Veteran Kristofer Goldsmith, and his efforts to rid Facebook of fake accounts and pages targeting veterans.
"It's frustrating to see there are people from outside of the United States, specifically targeting veterans and using organizations like the Vietnam Veterans of America to gain the trust of their followers," said Goldsmith, during an interview with KQED.
Goldsmith's discovery of this problem on Facebook began in 2016, soon after he began working for the Vietnam Veterans of America. He wanted to see how popular the group was on Facebook, so he did a search, and immediately, a page came up that wasn't the organization.
The page, which Goldsmith says was run out of Bulgaria, was not only trying to get veterans to donate money and buy T-shirts, but also spreading false news. For example, there was a fake story about the defacing of an African-American veteran's tombstone.
"Over just four hours while it was up, hundreds of thousands of Americans were exposed to what really was a foreign propaganda video," said Goldsmith.
As he combed through Facebook, he discovered nearly 100 more suspicious pages pretending to be veterans groups, and those pages, had millions of followers. Goldsmith says he tried to report the pages through Facebook's web portal, but it wasn't until Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill got involved that Facebook started taking the pages down.
In response to this story, Facebook tells us it’s “Threat Intelligence” team is continuing to rid the platform of these kinds of pages. Goldsmith commends the work Facebook is doing to take down these pages. But he believes it's not enough.
"This is something where the VA and the Department of Defense need to come together and come up with a holistic solution," says Goldsmith.
"We're in a time that is changing and it can't just be about caring for the physical and mental health care for veterans. The well-being of veterans is being compromised by foreign trolls who are seeking to destroy us, to tear us apart, to break us apart. The veterans community is a byproduct of their goal of sowing division in the United States."
Goldsmith and the Vietnam Veterans of America now want the U.S. Department of Defense to do a full investigation.
The DOD has not responded to KQED's request for comment on the VVA's request.
"We can't just blame this on a couple of evil corporations. I want them to understand that this is a societal issue. The whole point of these trolls is to draw us away from one another. We all need to work together and stand up to these trolls."