- Chris Vallance
- Technology correspondent, BBC News
Meta’s latest report on threats from political rivalries on social media says “individuals associated with the US military” are linked to an online propaganda campaign.
Independent researchers said in August that the campaign was the first major classified pro-US propaganda monitored by a major technology company.
The campaign was supported by the United States and its allies, while countries such as Russia, China and Iran opposed it.
But experts said it was largely ineffective.
It removed 39 accounts, 16 pages and two groups from Facebook, as well as 26 accounts on Instagram, for all of them violating the platform’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”.
Meta said: “This network originated in the United States.”
It focused on countries including Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Yemen – and used tactics that were common in anti-Western propaganda campaigns, including:
- Create imaginary characters
- create artificial images
- Broadcast campaigns across multiple platforms
Researchers said the accounts targeting Iran criticized Iranian authorities and their policies and made posts about issues such as women’s rights.
Some US-supporting media pretended to be independent outlets, and some tried to pass off content from legitimate media, such as BBC News in Russian, as their own.
The campaign was broadcasted on several internet services, including Twitter and YouTube, Meta reported.
The report stated that “although the people behind this operation tried to hide their identities and coordinate with each other, the report found links to them with individuals associated with the US military.”
But most of the posts had “little interaction” from real users.
Andy Carvin, editorial director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory in the US, told the BBC when the campaign was first revealed that such campaigns by democracies would be “ineffective and counterproductive” because it would mean “tactics used by Adversaries” also means “public confidence diminished further”.
The meta announcement confirms previous reports published by the Washington Post.
Concern about the operation prompted the Pentagon to complete a “comprehensive review” of how the US military wages classified information warfare, sources told the newspaper.
The US Department of Defense told BBC News that it was “aware of the report published by Meta”.
“Currently, we do not have any further comments on the report or possible actions the ministry may take as a result of the report’s publication,” she added.
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