US media is reporting that Facebook is observing ‘steady growth’ in disinformation-for-hire services. According to a Cyber Scoop article:
May 11, 2021 Government-sponsored disinformation campaign operators have long sought to hide their true identities by recruiting writers to publish articles for seemingly legitimate news organizations, or using manipulated photos to lend an air of authenticity to their fake accounts. The National Security Agency and Cyber Command confirmed that the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-backed troll farm that’s spent years trying to influence U.S. public opinion, outsourced the production of police brutality-themed content, for instance, to a non-governmental organization in Ghana in 2020. An Israeli lobbying firm was similarly peddling narratives via fake and misleading accounts in 2019 in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. In recent months, though, Facbeook says it has seen an uptick in campaigns outsourcing operations to public relations firms and commercial entities to further distance operators from their influence campaigns. […]
Less visible actors increasingly are amplifying polarizing content about local political issues, while often working for a benefactor, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, told reporters on May 6. “We’ve seen a steady growth in PR campaigns and deceptive companies that are essentially trying to sell deception for hire, both domestically and around the world,” Gleicher said, adding that influence operations for hire is nothing new. “We have seen a growth in these types of operations, and one of the things we’ve seen more recently is if you think about domestic politics we’re seeing more and more efforts to hire or bring these PR firms in even for smaller races.”
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The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) has extensively covered disinformation by various influence actors, including major state and transnational, as well as private actors.