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Meta says it removed China operation seeking to influence US midterms

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ANKARA, TURKEY - In this photo illustration logo of Meta is displayed on a computer screen and apps icons on a mobile photo screen in Ankara, Turkey on October 29, 2021. ( Hakan Nural - Anadolu Agency )
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Sep 28, 2022 - 01:13 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – Facebook parent company Meta announced Tuesday that it removed a coordinated electronic campaign originating in China that sought to influence US politics ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The China-origin “small network” was detected across multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Meta said in a blog post. It “targeted people on both sides of the political spectrum” ahead of the Nov. 8 contest.

The takedown is the first of a China-origin network that targeted US domestic politics, Meta said.

The network also conducted anti-government activities in the Czech Republic, “criticizing the state’s support of Ukraine in the war with Russia and its impact on the Czech economy, using the criticism to caution against antagonizing China,” Meta said.

“Each cluster of accounts — around half a dozen each — posted content at low volumes during working hours in China rather than when their target audiences would typically be awake. Few people engaged with it and some of those who did called it out as fake,” it added.

The group was active between the Fall of 2021 and September 2022.

Meta also took down what it called a “large network” originating in Russia that targeted people in Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine and the UK with narratives that Meta said were focused on the Kremlin’s ongoing war against Ukraine.

The network began to carry out its activities in May and posted content criticizing Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees using articles that appeared to be from authentic news outlets, including Der Spiegel, The Guardian and Bild, Meta said.

The social media company found a “few occasions” on which the content was re-posted on the official Facebook pages of Russian embassies in Europe and Asia.

“This is the largest and most complex Russian-origin operation that we’ve disrupted since the beginning of the war in Ukraine,” it said. “It presented an unusual combination of sophistication and brute force. The spoofed websites and the use of many languages demanded both technical and linguistic investment.”

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