Meta shuts down thousands of politically polarizing fake Facebook accounts

November 30, 2023

Social media giant Meta announced Thursday that it had shut down a China-based network of nearly 4,800 fake accounts on Facebook that appeared to weigh in on American political issues. 

The network was the latest example of how the United States’ foreign adversaries exploit giant tech platforms to foment discord and distrust inside the U.S. and other countries. 

On Thursday, in its quarterly report on adversarial threats, Meta for the first time identified the countries that are the most common sources of fake accounts: China, Russia and Iran.

“These networks still struggle to build audiences, but they’re a warning,” said Ben Nimmo, who leads investigations into inauthentic behavior on Meta’s platforms. “Foreign threat actors are attempting to reach people across the internet ahead of next year’s elections, and we need to remain alert.”

Meta could not definitely link the latest shut-down network of fake accounts to the Chinese government, though it did determine that China was the country of origin.  

To appear to look like an average Facebook account, the fake accounts often posted on non-political topics, like fashion or pets, at first. But earlier this year, some of the accounts abruptly replaced their American-sounding user names and profile pictures with new ones suggesting they lived in India. The accounts then began spreading pro-Chinese content about Tibet and India. 

The U.S. government had been briefing Meta on foreign attempts to influence elections, but the internet company has said that as of July, the government “paused” those briefings, eliminating a key source of information for the company. Meta has declined to speculate on the government’s motives, though the timing lined up with a July court order that restricted the Biden Administration’s contacts with social media firms.

The United States is just one of several countries that will undertake national elections next year, including India, Mexico, Ukraine, Pakistan, Taiwan and Russia.

Further, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who himself faces reelection in March,  said earlier this week that he won’t make peace in Ukraine until he learns the result of the U.S. Presidential election this coming November.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

 

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