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Meta dismantles thousands of fake accounts based in China

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Meta dismantles thousands of fake accounts based in China

Meta has announced it is removing a network with over 4,700 fake and misleading accounts operating out of China. 

These accounts, posed as American users, strategically spread polarizing content related to US politics and US-China relations. 

The topics covered by this network included divisive issues such as abortion, culture wars, and aid to Ukraine.

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Meta refrained from directly attributing the fake accounts to Chinese officials.

However, the company has observed an increasing number of such networks originating from China, particularly in the lead-up to the 2024 US elections. 

Its quarterly threat report sheds light on the tactics employed by these deceptive accounts, which used profile pictures and names copied from real users globally.

The network's activities involved sharing and liking each other's posts, with some content directly lifted from X, formerly Twitter. 

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The fake accounts also replicated verbatim posts from various US politicians, both Republicans and Democrats. 

Those targeted were former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Representatives Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan.

Despite the lack of ideological consistency within the network, Meta's report emphasizes the disruptive nature of such coordinated, inauthentic behavior. 

It remains unclear whether the goal was to amplify partisan tensions, build audiences among supporters of specific politicians, or simply make fake accounts sharing authentic content appear more genuine.

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Meta's moderation rules explicitly prohibit coordinated inauthentic behavior.

Meta defines it as posts generated by groups of accounts that collaborate using false identities to mislead other users. 

The content shared by such networks may not be false and could reference accurate news stories.

But their primary intention is often to manipulate public opinion, sow division, and amplify particular viewpoints.

Meta managed to intervene before the large Chinese network gained significant traction among real users. 

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Ben Nimmo, who leads investigations into inauthentic behavior on Meta's platforms, said such networks "still struggle to build audiences, but they're a warning".

"Foreign threat actors are attempting to reach people across the internet ahead of next year's elections, and we need to remain alert."

The report also highlighted two smaller networks, one based in China, focusing on India and Tibet.

Another is based in Russia and primarily posted in English about the invasion of Ukraine and promoted Telegram channels.

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