Meta Disrupts China’s Facebook and Instagram Propaganda Operation Ahead of US Midterm Elections

Meta Platforms said on Tuesday it had halted the first known China-based influence operation aimed at targeting users in the United States with political content ahead of the midterm elections in November.

The network maintained fake accounts on Meta’s social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, as well as rival service Twitter, but was small and did not attract many followers, Meta said in a report summarizing its findings.

Still, the report notes, the finding was significant because it suggested a move toward more direct interference in US domestic politics than previous known Chinese propaganda efforts.

“The Chinese ops that we removed before were mostly talking about America to the world, mostly South Asia, not to Americans about themselves,” Ben Nimmo, head of global threat intelligence Meta, said during a briefing. a press briefing.

“Essentially the message was ‘America is bad, China is good,'” he said of those operations, while the new operation delivered messages to Americans on both sides on issues controversial issues such as abortion and the right to firearms.

Another Meta executive at the briefing said the company did not have enough evidence to say who in China was behind the activity.

Asked about Meta’s findings at a news conference, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said his office was “deeply concerned” by intelligence reports of election interference by foreign governments “going back a long time. some time and continuing until today”.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company was aware of the information in Meta’s report and also removed the accounts.

According to Meta’s report, fake Chinese accounts are impersonating liberal and conservative Americans in different states. They have been posting political memes and hiding in comments on public figure posts since November 2021.

A sample screenshot showed an account commenting on a Facebook post by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, asking him to stop gun violence and using the hashtag #RubioChildrenKiller.

The same network also created fake accounts that posed as people in the Czech Republic criticizing the Czech government over its approach to China, according to the report.

Meta also said he intercepted the largest and most complex Russia-based operation since the start of the war in Ukraine, describing it as a sprawling network of more than 60 websites posing as legitimate news outlets, as well as around 4,000 social media accounts and petitions on sites like the US-based campaign group Avaaz.

This operation mainly targeted users in Germany, as well as France, Italy, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, and spent more than $100,000 (approximately Rs. 81.8 lakh) on advertisements promoting messages pro-Russian.

On a few occasions, Russian embassies in Europe and Asia amplified the content.

The Russian Embassy in Washington said Meta’s decision followed “the instructions of the US authorities” and was a violation of free speech.

“This suggests that the US tech giants, which 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

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