Meta said Thursday it has disrupted Chinese and Russian fake social media account networks aimed at exploiting U.S. political divisions ahead of next year's elections. Thousands of fake accounts were removed. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Meta reported Thursday that it has disrupted Chinese and Russian covert influence operations designed to influence politics in the United States through deceptive social media practices.
Meta warned that "foreign threat actors are attempting to reach audiences ahead of next year's various elections, including in the U.S. and Europe, and we need to remain alert to their evolving tactics and targeting across the internet."
Meta said that "perception hacking" is designed to sow doubt in democratic processes.
"We removed 4,789 Facebook accounts for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior," Meta said in a statement. "This network originated in China and targeted the United States."
The Chinese network, Meta said, used basic fake accounts and posed as Americans to post the same content across different platforms about U.S. politics and U.S.-China relations.
Meta said the fake accounts criticized both sides of the U.S. political spectrum by using copy-pasted political partisan content from the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.
"In some instances, they retweeted posts by X's owner," Meta said. "They also posted links to news articles from mainstream U.S. media and re-shared Facebook posts by real people, likely in an attempt to appear more authentic."
Meta said the Russian operation targeted English-speaking audiences with Facebook and Instagram accounts using a network of fake accounts.
"We removed six Facebook accounts, one Page, and three accounts on Instagram for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior," Meta's statement said. "This network originated in Russia and targeted global English-speaking audiences. Our investigation found links to employees of RT, a Russian state-controlled media entity."
Meta said the Russian deception posed as seemingly independent grassroots media projects across several social media platforms including Telegram, X, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube.
"The network posted primarily in English about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, accusing Ukraine of war crimes and Western countries of "Russophobia." These "media" brands also posted critical comments about transgender rights and human rights in Western countries, especially the United States and France, and criticized US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron," Meta's statement said.
Meta also disrupted a Chinese "coordinated inauthentic behavior" network originating in China and targeting primarily India and Tibet.
Meta said Russia, Iran and China are the top three nations behind these CIB networks.
Russia is the most prolific user of these fake accounts, according to Meta.
Citing an extremely persistent Russian operation called "Dopplelganger," Meta said U.S. and European politics are being targeted by U.S.-focused sites with names like Election Watch, Lies of Wall Street, Spicy Conspiracy, Truthgate, and 50 States of Lie.
Doppelganger's latest web content includes material seemingly taken from mainstream U.S. news outlets but altered to promote conspiracy theories and question U.S. democracy.
The posts used by these fake social media network covert operations in some cases took real posts from U.S. politicians and reposted them using fake accounts.
Examples included posts from Rep Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., on stripping Ukraine aid from the National Defense Authorization Act and from Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., on Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Posts from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis supporting Sen. Tommy Tuberville's blocking of military promotions were also reposted by the fake networks.
Addressing the threat posed by these fake social media covert operations, Meta said they seek to hijack partisan narratives with increasingly decentralized operations.
Meta said information sharing between industry, governments and civil society is critical to detect and disrupt foreign threats early.