Meta Dismantles China-Based Covert Influence Operation Ahead of Midterm Elections

The parent company of Facebook and Instagram said on Sept. 27 that it disrupted a Chinese influence operation seeking to interfere in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.

Meta Platforms said that it had dismantled the China-based campaign, which targeted users in the United States with political content in an apparent effort to polarize voters.

The China-based network maintained fake accounts across Meta’s social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, as well as its competitor Twitter.

The covert influence operation began in November of 2021, Meta said, but failed to garner substantial engagement.

A report (pdf) released by Meta said that the discovery was significant because it suggests a shift toward more direct interference in U.S. domestic politics from China, whereas previous known Chinese propaganda efforts focused on audiences external to the United States.

“The Chinese operations we’ve taken down before talked primarily about America to the world, primarily in South Asia, not to Americans about themselves,” said Meta global threat intelligence lead Ben Nimmo during a press briefing.

“Essentially the message was ‘America bad, China good,’” he said.

The new operation, however, pushed messages aimed at Americans on both the left and right of the political spectrum and apparently sought to inflame tensions over controversial issues like abortion, gun control, and the war in Ukraine.

Out of four separate clusters of fake accounts, two were particularly focused on targeting Americans on key issues, the report said.

One such cluster posed as conservative Americans and posted memes in English that accused President Biden and other politicians of corruption.

This network called for protecting gun rights, restricting abortion access, and posted accusations that the U.S. government was running bioweapon labs in Ukraine.

Another cluster posted criticism of the Republican Party for its stance on these issues, posing as liberal Americans from California, Florida, and Texas.

Other posts from this second group focused on individual politicians including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), as well as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Most of the accounts were anonymous. One, however, impersonated a real American, using photos from a student protest in California.

Some of the less sophisticated accounts included postings in Chinese, using female English names, while profile pictures were of men in formal attire.

Meta said that the posts were too sporadic in nature and improperly timed to garner a substantial following, and thus failed to earn engagement from authentic communities.

Another Meta executive at the briefing said the company did not have enough evidence to say who in China was behind the activity, but that it had shared information with other tech companies, security researchers, governments, and law enforcement agencies.

The report also uncovered a substantial Russian influence operation aimed at undermining western support for Ukraine, which spanned more than 60 websites and impersonated legitimate news organizations including Spiegel, The Guardian, Bild, and ANSA.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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