So, Meta just revealed they’ve axed a bunch of fake accounts based in China, like thousands of them. These accounts pretended to be Americans and were all about stirring the pot on US politics and US-China relations.
Topics on the Menu
What were they cooking up, you ask? Well, they dished out stuff about abortion, culture wars, and aid to Ukraine, among other hot-button issues.
Meta didn’t directly link these profiles to Chinese officials, but they’re seeing more and more similar networks from China leading up to the 2024 US elections.
China’s Rank and Meta’s Moves
According to Meta, China’s now the third biggest source of these fake networks, trailing behind Russia and Iran. They spilled the beans about this takedown in a report that covers threats and security released by Facebook’s parent company.
This China-based network had over 4,700 accounts and used photos and names stolen from users worldwide. These accounts would share and like each other’s posts, even copying content from X, which used to be Twitter.
A Political Copycat Game
The copied content wasn’t picky about ideology. They’d copy tweets from politicians of all stripes – Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Republicans like Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, and others.
One account might echo a Democratic Congresswoman’s take on Texas’s abortion laws, while another would mirror a Republican Representative’s stance on taxpayer-funded travel for abortions.
Meta’s scratching their heads, wondering if this was to fuel partisan tension, snag more followers from these politicians’ camps, or just to make these fake accounts seem legit by sharing real content.
Manipulating Opinion, Forbidden Moves
Meta’s strict on what they call “coordinated inauthentic behavior” – when groups of fake accounts team up using false identities to mislead users. These networks often share real news stories but spin them to sway opinions, create divisions, and make certain views seem more popular than they are.
Good news, though: Meta nipped this big Chinese network in the bud before it could fool actual users.
Forewarnings and Other Networks
Ben Nimmo, leading the charge against fake accounts on Meta’s platforms, warned that these networks are still trying hard, even if they struggle to get real followers. He’s sounding the alarm that foreign players are trying to reach people online before next year’s elections.
Apart from the Chinese network, Meta found two smaller fish: one focused on India and Tibet, and another from Russia, talking about Ukraine’s invasion and promoting Telegram channels.
Russian Tactics and US Government’s Role
The Russians, who Meta’s been keeping an eye on since the 2016 elections, are now focusing on Ukraine’s war. They’re trying to undermine global support for Kyiv, according to the report.
But here’s a twist: the US government stopped sharing info about foreign influence networks with Meta in July. There’s a whole legal case at the Supreme Court about this, raising questions about whether the government’s too involved in restricting social media free speech.
So, while Meta’s cleaning house by taking down these fake accounts, the bigger game of who controls what’s said on social media is still up in the air.