Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said Tuesday that it had disabled a China-based network that was working to incite US political divisions on social media ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The influence campaign involved roughly 80 accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that planned to stoke conflict over “hot button” issues like abortion and gun control.
“What this operation was doing was targeting US domestic politics, targeting both sides,” Meta global threat intelligence lead Ben Nimmo said in a statement.
“And it’s the first time we’ve seen that from a Chinese operation in this way. So even though it was small, even though we caught it early, it’s a significant change in what we’ve seen from Chinese operations,” he added.
Nimmo said the essential message the accounts meant to send was “America bad, China good.”
The phony posts, which first appeared in November 2021, posed as liberals calling out conservatives on gun control and abortion restrictions and singling out Republican lawmakers like Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Their perspective would then flip to conservatives blasting liberals over the same issues, attacking President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Meta said while the influence campaign originated in China, it was unable to determine any level of involvement by the Chinese government.
According to the company, the users behind the phony accounts “largely stuck to a shift pattern that coincided with a nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday work schedule during working hours in China.”
“This meant that the operation was mostly posting when Americans were sleeping,” the social media giant noted.
Big Tech companies wary of attempts to promote disinformation during the 2020 presidential campaign ended up censoring The Post’s series of reports in October 2020 about Hunter Biden’s tangled network of overseas business dealings while his father, Joe Biden, was serving as vice president in the Obama administration.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted in August that his company erred in banning the stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop from the platform.
“It turned out after the fact, the fact-checkers looked into it, no one was able to say it was false … I think it sucks, though, in the same way that probably having to go through a criminal trial but being proven innocent in the end sucks,” he told Joe Rogan on his podcast.
Meta also said it disrupted a Russian-based campaign that spread false information about the war in Ukraine and targeted Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, as well as Ukraine.
Among the roughly 60 accounts were several that tried to imitate media organizations like German newspapers Der Spiegel and Bild, and Britain’s The Guardian.
The Russian network would distribute bogus articles on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter and online petition sites criticizing Ukraine and its refugees, supporting Russian aims in the seven-month-old war and claiming that US and European sanctions would eventually backfire.
“Throughout our investigation, as we blocked this operation’s domains, they attempted to set up new websites, suggesting persistence and continuous investment in this activity across the internet,” Meta said.
With Post wires
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