Meta said it closed thousands of China-linked accounts on its platforms that were participating in the “largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world.”
The digital influence campaign spread across more than 50 online platforms, including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Google’s YouTube, X, TikTok and Reddit, according to Meta’s Adversarial Threat Report for 2023’s second quarter.
Meta said it linked the influence operation to “individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement.”
“This campaign was run by geographically dispersed operators across China who appeared to be centrally provisioned with internet access and content,” Meta said in the report published Tuesday. “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.”
Meta said it scrubbed 7,704 Facebook accounts, 954 Facebook pages and 15 Instagram accounts as part of the China-based campaign aiming at the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan, Taiwan and Chinese-speaking audiences globally.
Despite the influence operation’s far-reaching aspirations, Meta said it found no evidence that the China-based network got any substantial engagement from real people on its platforms. Meta said the Chinese network likely used fake content engagement farms in Bangladesh, Brazil and Vietnam, which meant the network’s Facebook pages were “almost exclusively followed by accounts from countries outside of their target regions.”
Meta said it also detected a major cross-platform Russian influence operation newly focused on the U.S.
The Russia-based operation that Meta calls Doppelganger demonstrated the “largest and most aggressively persistent covert influence operation from Russia that we’ve seen 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 said. “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 said the digital influence operation impersonated Fox News and The Washington Post to post critical commentary on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and to a lesser extent President Biden and about U.S. policy on Ukraine.
“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,” Meta’s report said.
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