Meta Platforms said it has disrupted the first known China-based influence operation targeting users in the United States (US) with political content ahead of the midterm elections in November.
The network created fake accounts across Meta’s social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, as well as Twitter, but was unsuccessful and did not attract much of a following, Meta said in a report summarizing its findings.
Still, the report noted that the discovery was significant because it suggested a shift toward more direct interference in US domestic politics than previous known Chinese propaganda efforts. The Chinese operations Meta has taken down before talked mainly about America to the world, primarily in South Asia, and not to Americans about themselves.
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Meta global threat intelligence lead Ben Nimmo said at a press briefing that the message was ‘America bad, China good.’ The new operation pushed messages targeting Americans on both sides of divisive issues like gun rights and abortion. Another Meta executive said the company did not have enough evidence to say who was behind the activity in China.
According to the report, the fake accounts have been masquerading as liberal and conservative Americans in different states, posting memes and lurking in the comments of public figures’ posts since November 2021. The same network also created fake accounts that posed as people in the Czech Republic criticizing the Czech government’s approach to China.
The report said Meta intercepted the biggest and most complex Russian-based operation since the war in Ukraine started, describing it as a sprawling network of over 60 websites, social media accounts, and petitions on sites like Avaaz.