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Chinese law enforcement linked to 'largest known' online influence operation, Meta says

The accounts published pro-China content in more than a dozen languages.

Published: August 30, 2023 8:29am

Updated: August 30, 2023 8:33am

Chinese law enforcement is linked to what Meta calls the "largest known" online influence operation, which posted positive comments about China across more than 50 platforms and garnered more than half a million followers before the Facebook parent company took it down.

In an Adversarial Threat report published Tuesday, Meta said it "recently took down thousands of accounts and Pages that were part of the largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world."

Meta also said it connected the latest China-based network of individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement and the pro-China operation known as "Spamouflage" that was launched in 2019 in response to the Hong Kong protests. 

The influence network's posts were "primarily in Chinese and English in addition to French, and smaller volumes in languages including Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Filipino, German, Finnish, Portuguese, and even Latin and Welsh," according to Meta. 

The Chinese accounts were identified on more than 50 websites, including Meta's Facebook and Instagram, as well as other platforms such as Reddit, YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Quora and X, formerly known as Twitter.

The campaign was run across China in different locations but with what appeared to be centrally provisioned internet access and content, according to the report.

The posts from Spamouflage included positive comments about China and its Xinjiang province, where China is accused of persecuting Uyghur Muslim minorities. Additionally, the network's posts criticized the United States, Western policies and Chinese government critics, according to Meta.

Meta has disrupted China-based influence operations before, such as one in 2022 that featured fake accounts posing as Americans bashing political figures.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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