Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has disclosed that they have disrupted some of the largest covert online influence operations originating from China and Russia, both employing vast network of fake accounts across various online platforms.
Chinese operations: Meta links activities to Chinese law enforcement.
* The Chinese operation spread pro-China messages and criticized critics of Beijing’s policies, using a spread of fake accounts over more than 50 platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and other smaller platforms and forums.
* These activities were dubbed “Spamouflage” due to the accounts interspersing political posts with random images and videos.
* Despite the size of the network, Meta stated it failed to achieve a large real-life following on its platforms or online.
* Connections to Chinese law enforcement were established through technical signals and behavioral indicators.
Breaching the numbers: Analyzing the impact and reach of the Spamouflage operation.
* Meta has banned over 8,600 Facebook accounts, pages, groups and Instagram accounts connected to this operation, collectively followed by about 561,000 accounts, many of which were also fake.
* The operation seemingly purchased pages from spam operators in Vietnam and Bangladesh, populated them with bot followers, and then abruptly switched content from ads to political messages.
Russian attempts: Meta exposes a Russian online influence operation aimed at eroding support for Ukraine.
* The “Doppelganger” operation created websites mimicking news organizations and posted links to articles criticizing Ukraine and Western countries across its social network.
* The Fake sites involved The Washington Post, Fox News, NATO, European outlets, Polish and Ukrainian governments, the German police, and the French Foreign Ministry.
* Despite the operation being regarded as the “largest and most aggressively persistent” Russian operation since 2017, it failed to gain much traction among real social media users owing to blatantly fake promoting accounts.
Tactical shift: Influence operations are pivoting to smaller social networks.
* As large companies like Meta become more vigilant, influence operations are shifting to smaller platforms.
* The operations are also creating off-platform websites to attract traffic via social media.
* The Russian operation, for example, has resorted to using outlandishly named websites to host its content.
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