Inauthentic Facebook and Instagram accounts posing as liberal Americans to sway midterm candidates

Facebook’s parent company Meta disrupted a network of China-based accounts that sought to influence US policy ahead of the 2022 midterms, the company reported Tuesday.

The covert influence operation used accounts on Facebook and Instagram posing as Americans to post opinions on hot-button issues such as abortion, gun control and high-profile politicians such as the President Biden and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The network, which focused on the United States and the Czech Republic, was released from fall 2021 to summer 2022, the company said. Facebook rebranded itself as Meta last year.

Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global head of threat intelligence, told reporters the network was unusual because unlike previous China-based influence operations that focused on promoting narratives about America to the rest of the world. , this network was intended to influence American users on American topics months. before the 2022 competitions.

“This operation that we have now canceled was the first to focus on both sides of America’s burning issues,” he said. “Although it failed, it is important because it is a new direction for Chinese influence operations.”

China has become a powerful outlet for disinformation and propaganda on social media in recent months, including promoting pro-Kremlin messages about the war in Ukraine. Official Chinese social media shared false claims about neo-Nazi control of the Ukrainian government.

China is Russia’s most powerful weapon for information warfare

In the network that Meta took down, China-based accounts posed as liberal Americans living in Florida, Texas and California while posting criticism of the Republican Party. The network also focused on individual politicians, including Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Meta said. in a report.

The network didn’t seem to gain much traction or user engagement. The influencer operation often posted content in low volume during working hours in China rather than at times when its target audience would be awake, according to the report. The network included at least 81 Facebook accounts and two accounts on Instagram as well as pages and groups, according to the report.

Separately, Meta said he disrupted the largest Russian-based influence operation he has dismantled since the start of the war in Ukraine. This operation used a network of more than 60 websites posing as legitimate news outlets in Europe to promote stories critical of Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees and arguing that Western sanctions against Russia would backfire.

The operation posted these stories on multiple social media channels, including Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, as well as websites such as Change.org and Avaaz.com, according to the report. The network originated in Russia and targeted users in Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine and the UK, according to the report.

Meta began its investigation into the operation after reviewing public reporting on some of the network’s activities by investigative journalists in Germany, according to the report.

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