Meta shuts 4,800 accounts over alleged China-based influence operation


Meta has removed nearly 4,800 fake accounts that were part of a China-based influence campaign aimed at spreading polarising content about United States politics ahead of the 2024 presidential election, the tech giant has announced.

The influence operation was one of two China-based campaigns detected by Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, in the third quarter of 2023, the tech said in its latest threat adversarial report released on Thursday.

“The people behind this activity posted in English about US politics and US-China relations. The same accounts would criticise both sides of the US political spectrum by using what appears to be copy-pasted partisan content from people on X,” Meta said.

Meta said the network of accounts drew from both liberal and conservative sources while resharing genuine posts by politicians and news outlets under fake identities.

“It’s unclear whether this approach was designed to amplify partisan tensions, build audiences among these politicians’ supporters, or to make the fake accounts sharing authentic content appear more genuine,” the tech firm said.

Meta said it had disrupted five influence campaigns based in China in total this year, more than from any other country. Meta did not attribute the network to the Chinese government or any other specific individual or group in China.

The tech giant said it had also shut down a network based in Russia in the third quarter that spread content about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ran fictitious “media” brands.

Meta’s report comes amid concerns that tech platforms like Facebook and X could be used to sow divisions and discord in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential elections, during which a highly polarised electorate is likely to face a rerun of the 2020 contest between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

The US Department of Homeland Security in September warned that foreign adversities were increasingly using new technologies such as artificial intelligence to “undermine trust in our government institutions, social cohesion, and democratic processes”.

US Senate and special counsel reports found that Russia used social media to sow division in the US as part of its efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.


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