Meta Platforms said Tuesday it had disrupted the first known China-based influence operation focused on targeting users in the United States with political content ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The network maintained fake accounts on Meta social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, as well as rival service Twitter, but these were small and did not attract many followers, Meta said in a report summarizing its findings.
Still, the report noted, the discovery was significant because of a shift toward more direct interference in U.S. domestic politics than previously known Chinese propaganda efforts.
“We didn’t talk about America to the world, primarily in South Asia, about Americans before we canceled China’s operations,” META Global Threat Intelligence Lead Ben Nimmo said at a press conference.
“Essentially the message was ‘America is bad, China is good,'” he said of those operations, while the new operation addresses Americans on both sides of the aisle on divisive issues like abortion and gun rights.
Another Meta executive at the briefing said the company did not have enough evidence to say who was behind the activity in China.
Asked about Meta’s findings at a press conference, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said his office was “deeply concerned” about intelligence reports of election interference by foreign governments that began some time ago and continues into the present.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company was aware of the information in Meta’s report and removed the accounts.
Chinese fake accounts pose as liberal and conservative Americans in different states, Meta reports. He posted political memes and lurked in the comments of public figures’ posts since November 2021.
A sample screenshot shows an account commenting on Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s Facebook post, asking him to stop gun violence and using the hashtag #RubioChildrenKiller.
The same network also set up fake accounts that criticized the Czech government over the way people in the Czech Republic view China, the report said.
Meta also said it had blocked the largest and most complex Russian-based operation since the start of the war in Ukraine, describing it as a sprawling network of more than 60 websites impersonating legitimate news organizations, as well as about 4,000 social media accounts and petitions on similar sites that are US-based. Campaign Group Voice.
That operation primarily targeted users in Germany, as well as France, Italy, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, and spent more than $100,000 (roughly Rs. 81.8 lakh) on ads promoting pro-Russian messages.
On some occasions, Russian embassies in Europe and Asia raised the material.
The Russian embassy in Washington said Meta’s move “followed the instructions of US authorities” and was a violation of freedom of speech.
“This suggests that American tech giants, who own the most popular Internet resources, have become servants of the US administration’s policy of suppressing dissent,” the embassy said on its Telegram channel.
© Thomson Reuters 2022