Meta last month deleted nearly 1,000 Instagram and Facebook accounts, groups in several countries, most of which were found to belong to a sprawling network out of China trying to spread the misinformation about COVID-19.
The deactivated accounts, originating from Palestine, Poland, Belarus and China, violated Meta’s Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (CIB) policy, where users manipulate public debate for a strategic purpose with fake accounts at the heart of the operation.
“When we find campaigns that contain groups of accounts and pages that want to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing while relying on fake accounts, we remove both inauthentic and authentic accounts, pages and groups directly involved in this activity” , says Meta. said.
In total, Meta has deleted 979 accounts, groups and pages on its platforms, including accounts in:
- China: 524 Facebook accounts, 20 Pages, four groups and 86 Instagram accounts.
- Palestine: 141 Facebook accounts, 79 Pages, 13 groups and 21 Instagram accounts.
- Poland: 31 Facebook accounts, four groups, two Facebook events and four Instagram accounts.
- Belarus: 41 Facebook accounts, five groups and four Instagram accounts.
A man looks at a computer screen with a Facebook logo in Warsaw, Poland on February 21, 2021. (Photo illustration by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Meta said the Chinese network’s activity specifically targeted English-speaking audiences in the United States and the United Kingdom with misinformation about COVID-19. Their operation also targeted Chinese-speaking audiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet.
It dates back to July, when someone posing as a Swiss biologist named Wilson Edwards alleged that the US was pressuring World Health Organization scientists to blame China for the novel coronavirus. Multiple China-run outlets had stories about the claims.
In August, the Swiss embassy denied having a citizen by that name. Meta deleted the Facebook account the same day.
“Essentially, this campaign was a hall of mirrors, endlessly reflecting a single fake persona,” Meta said. “Our investigation revealed that almost all of the initial spread of the ‘Wilson Edwards’ story on our platform was inauthentic — the work of a multifaceted, largely failed influence operation that originated in China.”
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The Palestinian network originated in the Gaza Strip, targeting domestic targets as well as people in Egypt and Israel. Meta said her investigation linked the activity to Hamas.
“The individuals behind this activity posted news stories, cartoons and memes, mainly in Arabic, about current events in the region, including the postponed Palestinian elections, criticism of Israel’s defense policy, Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, and supportive commentary about Hamas,” explains Meta. from.
Meta said the Polish network targeted Belarus and Iraq. And the Belarusian network sought audiences in the Middle East and Europe.
“We’re checking for attempts to re-establish a presence on Facebook by networks we previously removed,” Meta said. “Using both automated and manual detection, we are constantly deleting accounts and pages connected to networks that we have deleted in the past.”
This story was reported from Atlanta.