US media is reporting that Facebook parent company Meta has announced shutting down two separate networks of fake accounts engaged in covert influence operations run from China and Russia. According to the CNN report, while the Chinese network was relatively small, Meta said the Russian network was the “largest and most complex Russian operation we’ve disrupted since the war in Ukraine began:”
Septer 7, 2022 Facebook parent company Meta announced Tuesday it had detected and shut down two separate networks of fake accounts engaged in covert influence operations run from China and Russia. The Chinese network was small and received barely any attention, but it did include some accounts that posed as Americans on both sides of the political spectrum, according to a Meta report released Tuesday. Meta publicly detailed the takedown as it remains on high alert for foreign interference in the US midterm elections, a Meta spokesperson told CNN. Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead, told CNN it was the first time the company had seen Chinese accounts targeting Americans in this way. “They were running fake accounts that pretended to be Americans and try to talk like Americans and they were talking about really divisive domestic issues like abortion and gun control,” he said. The company has shared details of the Chinese accounts with the FBI, a Meta spokesperson said. The Russian campaign, on the other hand, was vast. It pushed pro-Kremlin narratives about the war in Ukraine, included thousands of accounts and pages across multiple social media platforms and spent more than $100,000 on ads on Facebook and Instagram. Meta did not attribute either campaign to specific entities within China or Russia, or to the Chinese and Russian governments, instead saying only the accounts that were part of the campaigns were run out of the respective countries. Meta said the network of Russian accounts it had taken down was the “largest and most complex Russian operation we’ve disrupted since the war in Ukraine began, it ran a sprawling network of over 60 websites impersonating news organizations, as well as accounts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram, Twitter,” and other sites, according to the report. More than 2,000 Facebook accounts and pages were part of the effort to push pro-Kremlin narratives about the war in Ukraine, Meta said. More than $100,000 were spent on ads across Facebook and Instagram as part of the campaign, Meta said. Russia has spent over $300 million on influencing foreign elections since 2014, US officials say The operation included websites that were designed to mimic real Western news outlets, including The Guardian.
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In February 2022, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported Twitter and Facebook had removed two anti-Ukrainian disinformation networks from their platforms. The companies said the influence operations were linked to Russia and Belarus and targeted Ukrainians.