Meta takes down Chinese Facebook accounts posing as US military families

Meta has taken down a network of fake accounts posing as US military families and anti-war activists. According to the company’s security researchers, the fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram originated in China and targeted a US audience.

Meta detailed the cancellations in its latest report on coordinated ambiguous behavior (CIB). The number of fake accounts was relatively small – 33 Facebook accounts, four Instagram profiles, six pages and six groups on Facebook. In the reports, he wrote about US aircraft carriers and other “military topics”, as well as “criticism of US foreign policy towards Taiwan and Israel and its support for Ukraine”, Meta wrote in his report.

The group also ran accounts on YouTube and Medium and shared an online petition “claiming to be written by Americans to criticize US support for Taiwan.” The company’s researchers said the fake accounts originated in China, but did not attribute the effort to a specific entity or group. Speaking to reporters, Meta’s head of global threat intelligence, Ben Nimmo, said there has been an increase in China-based influence operations over the past year.

“The biggest change in the threat landscape,” Nimmo said, “has been the emergence of Chinese influence operations.” Nimmo said. He noted that Meta has shut down 10 CIB networks that have sprung up in China since 2017, but six of those shutdowns happened last year. Last summer, Meta discovered and took down a particularly large network fake accounts attempting to spread pro-China propaganda messages on the platform.

In both cases, the fake accounts failed to spread their message. According to Meta, the latest network was only able to reach about 3,000 Facebook accounts, and two Instagram pages had no followers at the time of discovery.

However, Meta’s researchers note that attempts like this will continue in the run-up to the 2024 election, and people with large audiences should be wary of re-sharing unverified information. “Our threat research shows that historically, the primary way CIB networks have reached real communities is through their ability to connect real people—politicians, journalists, or influencers—and tap into their audiences,” the report said. “Reputable commentators are an attractive target and should be cautious before amplifying information from unverified sources, especially in the run-up to major elections.”

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