Meta Reports 4,789 Facebook Accounts in China Pretended to be Americans

On Thursday, Meta removed thousands of Facebook accounts based in China. The accounts were impersonating Americans and engaging in political debates in the United States. The company warned that this campaign could foretell coordinated international efforts to influence the 2024 presidential election.

According to Meta, the network of fake accounts consisted of 4,789 accounts. They used names and photos from the internet, and shared partisan political content from X, previously Twitter. The content included posts from prominent Republican and Democratic politicians.

The campaign did not appear to favor one side over the other but rather aimed to highlight the deep divisions in American politics, similar to Russia’s influence campaigns. Meta warned that the campaign was indicative of the threat facing upcoming elections globally, from India in April to the United States in November.

Although the company did not attribute the campaign to the Chinese government, it noted that China had ranked third in coordinated inauthentic behavior on social media platforms, after Russia and Iran. This marked the fifth network that Meta has detected and removed this year.

This suggests that China may be intensifying its efforts to covertly influence other countries, particularly in the United States, as previous campaigns focused on issues in China. Meta’s report has followed numerous disclosures about China’s global information operations.

The accounts removed by Meta had copied and pasted authentic partisan posts from politicians, together with posts from mainstream media organizations and X’s owner, Elon Musk. The accounts also liked and reposted content from other Facebook users, indicating that they intended to build a network of authentic accounts to push a coordinated message in the future. Meta also removed a smaller network from China targeting India, Tibet, and the United States, which posed as pro-independence activists.

In addition to Facebook, Meta warned that the same networks continued to use accounts on other platforms, such as X, YouTube, Gettr, and Telegram. They cautioned that foreign adversaries were diversifying the sources of their operations. The report also addressed the Republican attacks on the government’s role in monitoring disinformation online, but Meta praised the coordination among tech companies, government, and law enforcement in disrupting foreign threats.

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