Meta, the parent company of Facebook, revealed the removal of numerous fake accounts from its platform that were part of what it claims to be the “largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world.” Researchers suggest that this operation is connected to individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement. Although the campaign was extensive, its attempts to manipulate public opinion were often low in quality and failed to reach their intended audiences in countries such as Taiwan, the US, Australia, UK, and Japan.
This network was exposed by analyzing separate clusters of fake posts and propaganda, leading to the identification of a campaign named “Spamouflage,” initially discovered in 2019.
Meta tied together various campaigns across smaller forums, indicating a single, sprawling cross-platform covert influence operation. The company linked this operation to individuals connected to Chinese law enforcement, emphasizing the difficulty in concealing identities and coordination despite attempts to do so.
This announcement comes after the US Department of Justice charged 34 officers from China’s national police for using fake online personas to harass critics of the Chinese Communist Party and propagate its narratives overseas. Despite the operation’s size, it was largely ineffective, focusing on “spraying” articles across different platforms for resilience rather than meaningful engagement.
In response, Meta removed thousands of fake accounts, pages, groups, and Instagram accounts involved in this operation, which spanned over 50 platforms and forums. The company noted that the operation’s pages likely acquired inauthentic followers, particularly from Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Brazil, indicating a potentially inefficient strategy.
Despite the operation’s considerable resources, it struggled to achieve significant impact and faced vulnerability due to the distinctive content it repeatedly shared across various platforms. This exposé highlights the challenges social media platforms face in combating coordinated misinformation campaigns with geopolitical motivations.