Meta has revealed that it will be shutting down 7,704 Facebook accounts, 954 Pages, 15 Groups and 15 Instagram accounts for violating its policy against coordinated inauthentic behaviour. According to its report, the Facebook and Instagram accounts were associated with a Chinese political spam network that targeted users in other parts of the world. Meta claimed that investigations found links to individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement.
The content included positive commentary about China and its province Xinjiang and criticisms of the United States, Western foreign policies, and critics of the Chinese government including journalists and researchers. Coined as a “Spamouflage”, Meta said these accounts were part of what appears to be the largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world. Investigations first began in 2019.
“It was active on more than 50 platforms and forums, including Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, Pinterest, Medium, Blogspot, LiveJournal, VKontakte, Vimeo, and dozens of smaller platforms and forums,” Meta added.
Meta added that the campaign was run by geographically dispersed operators across China who “appeared to be centrally provisioned with internet access and content”.
“We were also able to link this network to the so-called 'Spamouflage' operation and its many separate clusters of spammy activity that Meta and our peers have been taking down since 2019,” it said. Meta added that the people behind the platform were largely posting content on smaller platforms and then trying to amplify it on larger services in hopes to maintain persistence.
In addition to memes and text posts, investigation identified notable distinctive errors, behavioral patterns and operational structure that allowed it to connect it to a number of more complex and long-running large clusters of activity across the internet. “Taken together, we estimate Spamouflage to be the largest known cross-platform covert influence operation to date,” it said.
Meta also said that upon reviewing the findings and tactics, used by Spamouflage over the years, similarities were found with the Russian network it first exposed in 2019 which was later dubbed “Secondary Infektion”.
Nonetheless, Meta clarified that despite the very large number of accounts and platforms it used, Spamouflage consistently struggled to reach beyond its own fake echo chamber. Many comments on Spamouflage posts came from other Spamouflage accounts trying to make it look like they were more popular than they were.
Only a few instances have been reported when Spamouflage content on Twitter and YouTube was amplified by real-world influencers, it added.
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