Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced that it has shut down thousands of China-linked accounts on its platforms. These accounts were reportedly part of what Meta called the “largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world.” The influence campaign spanned over 50 online platforms, including Google’s YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit.
According to Meta’s Adversarial Threat Report, the company linked the operation to individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement. The campaign involved disseminating positive commentary about China and its province Xinjiang, as well as criticizing the United States, Western foreign policies, and critics of the Chinese government.
In its efforts to combat the influence campaign, Meta removed a total of 7,704 Facebook accounts, 954 Facebook pages, and 15 Instagram accounts. Although the campaign had ambitious goals, Meta found no evidence that it gained substantial engagement from real people on its platforms. Instead, the company suspects that the China-based network utilized fake content engagement farms in Bangladesh, Brazil, and Vietnam.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) August 31, 2023
In addition to the China-based operation, Meta also discovered a significant cross-platform Russian influence operation focused on the United States. Dubbed Doppelganger by Meta, this operation is described as the largest and most persistent covert influence operation from Russia since 2017. While initially targeting Germany, France, and Ukraine, Doppelganger has now expanded its scope to include the United States and Israel.
According to Meta’s report, the Russian operation impersonated major news outlets such as Fox News and The Washington Post to publish articles critical of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.S. policy on Ukraine. The operation also engaged in spam-posting links to these articles across Facebook and Twitter. While some of the comments accompanying these articles focused on policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, most criticized Ukraine to Americans without regard for their political leanings.
Meta’s efforts to address these influence operations demonstrate the ongoing challenges faced by social media platforms in combating manipulation and disinformation campaigns. As such operations continue to evolve and target new countries, the responsibility falls on companies like Meta to remain vigilant and proactive in protecting their users from these threats.