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Meta Closes Thousands of Accounts Linked to Chinese Covert Influence Campaign

Meta announced that it has shut down thousands of China-linked accounts on its platforms, which were involved in what is known to be the largest cross-platform covert influence operation worldwide.

This digital influence campaign spanned over 50 online platforms, including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Google’s YouTube, X, TikTok, and Reddit, as revealed in Meta’s Adversarial Threat Report for the second quarter of 2023.

The influence operation has been attributed by Meta to “individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement.”

According to the report published on Tuesday, Meta stated, “This campaign was run by geographically dispersed operators across China who appeared to be centrally provisioned with internet access and content. It included positive commentary about China and its province Xinjiang and criticisms of the United States, Western foreign policies, and critics of the Chinese government, including journalists and researchers.”

As part of the China-based campaign targeting audiences in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and Chinese-speaking regions, Meta removed 7,704 Facebook accounts, 954 Facebook pages, and 15 Instagram accounts.

Despite its ambitions, Meta found no evidence that the China-based network received substantial engagement from real people on its platforms. Meta suspects that the Chinese network likely employed fake content engagement farms in Bangladesh, Brazil, and Vietnam, resulting in the network’s Facebook pages being followed mainly by accounts from countries outside of their target regions.

Meta’s report also revealed the detection of a significant cross-platform Russian influence operation, which is now focused on the U.S.

Referred to as Doppelganger by Meta, this Russia-based operation represents the “largest and most aggressively persistent covert influence operation from Russia since 2017.”

“While Germany, France, and Ukraine remain the most targeted countries overall for this operation, recently Doppelganger has added the United States and Israel to its list of targets,” Meta’s report stated. “It has done so by spoofing the domains of major news outlets in the U.S. and Israel, publishing articles criticizing American policies and then spam-posting links to those articles across Facebook and X (formerly Twitter).”

Meta found that the digital influence operation impersonated Fox News and The Washington Post to post critical commentary on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President Biden, and U.S. policy on Ukraine.

Regarding the social media comments accompanying these articles, Meta’s report noted, “Some of the social media comments that it used to accompany these articles dwelt on policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, but most criticized Ukraine to Americans without regard for their political leanings.”

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