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Meta takes down fake news from China

Facebook’s parent company Meta says it uncovered a covert operation of fake accounts from China attempting to influence U.S. politics ahead of the 2022 midterms.

The accounts posed as Americans on both ends of the political spectrum to post opinions about abortion, gun control and high-profile politicians such as President Biden and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Washington Post reports. 

The network, which maintained accounts across Facebook, Instagram and competitor Twitter, did not gain much traction or user engagement.

“The Chinese operations we’ve taken down before talked primarily about America to the world, primarily in South Asia, not to Americans about them,” Meta global intelligence lead Ben Nimmo shared in a press briefing, Reuters reports. 

In 2020, Meta took down Chinese influence operations criticizing the United States to people in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. 

This time around, the operations targeted people in the U.S., the Czech Republic and Chinese- and French-speaking audiences.

The fake accounts pretended to be Americans living in Florida, Texas and California while posting criticism of the Republican Party. The network also zeroed in on individual politicians including Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Washington Post reports.

The report was broken down into clusters of four operations starting from November 2021 to September 2022. The first two operations made use of memes and shared comments while the third U.S. cluster added Pages and political hashtags. The final cluster ran petitions on Czech websites. 

Meta also revealed in the report that they had intercepted the largest and most complex Russian-based operation since the war in Ukraine began, describing it as a sprawling network of over 60 websites, social media accounts and petitions, on YouTube, Telegram, Change.org and Avaaz.

The information was relayed to other tech companies, security researchers, governments and law enforcement to take appropriate action. 

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