Today, social network giant Meta removed dozens of accounts from covert foreign influence operations. These accounts were coordinated in ways that violated Meta’s policy against coordinated, inauthentic behavior. The campaign involved a Chinese influence operation that spread its propaganda across several social media platforms. Although the Chinese operation didn’t specifically try to influence Americans, it sought to change the U.S.’ foreign policy toward China.
Meta removed a “small network” in China to influence U.S. elections
A new report from Meta suggests that the Chinese government may have been trying to influence U.S. elections with fake accounts. The Chinese network was operating on several social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram. Its focus was on American domestic politics, aiming for Chinese and French-speaking users. Its campaign targets included Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida.
Meta has been putting more emphasis on the issue of disinformation and political campaigns in the U.S. for the past year. The company’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg has said that the company has hundreds of employees working on the midterm elections. He said that Meta had spent $5 billion on security and safety during the previous year. Meta’s goal is to provide transparency to users of political ads.
Meta users posed as conservative Americans opposing guns and abortion
The Chinese users used the online platform to promote gun rights and abortion and criticize President Biden. Although they were able to attract relatively few followers, their messages still had the desired effect. The Chinese users also used the site to promote Communist Party policies. While the activity is a small-scale one, it is representative of a broader trend of political disinformation on social media.
The Meta report found that Chinese and Russian campaigns overlapped on several occasions. The Chinese campaigns shared materials from Russian state media, including a number of unfounded claims about the United States. Moreover, a French-language account connected to the operation published the same allegation 10 days after the Telegram publication.
Meta users mangled the English language
In April, the Russian Ministry of Defense published a report claiming that Meta users mangled the English language to manipulate the U.S. election. That claim was subsequently echoed by a French-language account linked to the operation. In response to the report, the operation posted a response in French.
Chinese users posed as conservative Americans and promoted gun rights, opposed abortion, and criticized President Biden. The users, however, were unable to attract many followers despite their mangled English. In addition to the misleading posts, the Chinese users used international social media to push their Communist Party agenda.
Meta users failed to attract followers
The company has faced a backlash from many conservatives, who accuse it of unfair censorship. In response, the company has banned some conservatives from its site. Meanwhile, Democrats have criticized the company for not doing enough to curb disinformation. The company is also not regulated in the U.S. and lawmakers have failed to reach consensus on oversight. Regardless, the company’s new focus on identifying election misinformation is an important step.
Meta said that it had discovered a network of fake accounts that appeared to be operated by Chinese nationals. The accounts were largely active during working hours and posted content that could potentially sway the U.S. elections. The accounts also used controversial topics, including abortion and gun rights. The incident speaks to broader concerns about the use of social media platforms to disseminate political information.