Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has long been used by governments as a tool for social manipulation.
Russia’s flood of disinformation on Facebook ahead of the 2016 US presidential election, designed to help Donald Trump win, is arguably the best-known example. But as many have warned, the problem didn’t stop in 2016 or 2020 and continues to this day.
You may have heard of a report released by Meta on Tuesday revealing that Russia and China ran multiple social manipulation campaigns on Facebook from the fall of 2021 through this month. The campaigns targeted people in the United States and the Czech Republic, Meta said.
(And I should note: the fact that Meta is telling us about these campaigns of manipulation suggests to me that there were many more that we don’t know about. This is not a transparent organization, after all.)
In recent weeks, thanks to several Twitter whistleblowers who have come forward and a New York Times article detailing Russia’s campaign of manipulation during the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, the dangers of inauthentic accounts poisoning public discourse, more into focus. Meta’s report should ignite a fire for Congress to take urgent action before free will in politics becomes a thing of the past.
Here are some of the key revelations from Meta’s report:
- Meta said the Chinese manipulation campaign involved Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and two Czech petition platforms. Meta claims the campaign was “small” and uses similar language throughout the report to downplay the threat posed by the campaigns. In total, 81 Facebook accounts, eight Facebook pages, one Facebook group and two Instagram accounts were used for the Chinese effort, according to Meta.
- The Chinese campaign used memes attacking Democrats and Republicans alike to sow discord, Meta said. As examples, Meta provided images targeting President Joe Biden and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
- Meta said the Chinese campaign focused on four “clusters”: criticism of US foreign policy; attacking liberals from a conservative standpoint; attacking conservatives from a liberal standpoint; and inciting Czechs on a variety of national and international issues.
- The Chinese campaign included accounts spreading Kremlin-backed disinformation, including lies (parroted by some Republicans) claiming that the US was running bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine in preparation for an attack.
- With the Russian campaign, Meta says it has shut down a “large network” of more than 60 websites “carefully masquerading as legitimate news organizations in Europe,” including Spiegel, The Guardian, Bild and ANSA, an Italian news agency.
- The Russia-backed fake news sites published “original articles criticizing Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, praising Russia and arguing that Western sanctions against Russia would backfire,” according to Meta. After the release, fake social media accounts supported by Russia would share the content.
- Meta said the Russian campaign included 1,633 Facebook accounts, 703 Facebook pages, one Facebook group and 29 Instagram accounts.
- The Russian campaign involved spending $105,000 on ads on Facebook and Instagram, mostly using US dollars and euros, Meta said.
https://www.msnbc.com/the-reidout/reidout-blog/meta-facebook-russia-china-fake-accounts-rcna49976 Facebook’s parent company describes Russian and Chinese disinformation efforts