Skip to content
Facebook drops China-based network spreading false COVID-19 claims: NPR


Meta has taken down six account networks for abusing its platforms, highlighting how bad actors around the world are using social media as a tool to promote false information and harass opponents.

Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle legend

Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP via Getty Images

Facebook drops China-based network spreading false COVID-19 claims: NPR

Meta has taken down six account networks for abusing its platforms, highlighting how bad actors around the world are using social media as a tool to promote false information and harass opponents.

Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP via Getty Images

The parent company of Facebook and Instagram said on Wednesday it had deleted more than 600 accounts, pages and groups linked to a Chinese influence operation spreading COVID-19 disinformation, including an account claiming to be a fictitious Swiss biologist.

The China-based network was one of six Meta, formerly known as Facebook, deleted in November for abusing its platforms, a reminder that bad actors around the world are using social media to promote false information and harass opponents.

The other operations included a support operation for Hamas and two others, based in Poland and Belarus, which focused on the migration crisis at the countries’ common border.

Meta also suppressed a network linked to a European anti-vaccination conspiracy movement that harassed doctors, politicians and journalists on Facebook and other internet platforms, as well as a group of accounts in Vietnam who were reporting activists to Facebook. and criticism of the government in an attempt to get people banned from the social network.

The China-based operation came to light after the company was alerted to an account claiming to be a Swiss biologist named Wilson Edwards (such a person does not exist). The account posted allegations on Facebook and Twitter in July that the United States was pressuring scientists at the World Health Organization to blame China for the COVID-19 virus. Messages alleging US bullying quickly appeared in Chinese state media reports.

“This campaign was a mirror room, endlessly reflecting a single fake character,” wrote Ben Nimmo, who investigates influence operations at Meta, in the company report. Meta linked the operation to individuals in China and to people “associated with Chinese state-owned infrastructure companies located around the world,” he said.

The Chinese operation was an example of what Meta calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” in which adversaries use fake accounts for influence trades, as Russian agents have done by posing as Americans on the Internet. Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.

But recently, the Meta security team has broadened its scope to eliminate the accounts of real people who work together to cause harm both on Facebook and offline.

It is in this logic that we removed a network of accounts in Italy and France linked to an anti-vaccination movement known as V_V. According to a report by research firm Graphika, the group largely coordinates on the Telegram messaging app, but “appears to primarily target Facebook, where its members display the group’s double V symbol on their profile photos and swarm in them. Comment sections of posts pleading for COVID-19 vaccines with hundreds of abusive posts. ” Graphika said the group had also degraded health facilities and tried to disrupt public immunization programs.

Meta said people behind the network are using real, duplicate and fake accounts to mass comment on Facebook posts and intimidate people. This violates the company’s rules against “brigading”. Meta said it is not banning all V_V content, but will take additional action if it finds out about behavior that is against the rules. He did not specify how many accounts he deleted from the network.

The company acknowledged that while it was getting faster at detecting and removing accounts that break its rules, it was playing cat and mouse.

“Antagonistic networks do not try to adapt perfectly to our policies or to violate only one at a time,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, wrote Wednesday in an article in blog. “We build our defenses with the hope that they won’t stop, but rather adapt and try new tactics.

Editor’s Note: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content.

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.