The sting operation that spread pro-American and anti-Russian stories was previously exposed by investigators
Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has acknowledged the discovery of several clusters of bogus accounts and pages believed to be linked to individuals “associated with the US military”, according to the company’s latest hostile threat report released this week.
“Although the people behind this operation tried to hide their identity and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the US military.” the company said in a blog post Tuesday.
The influence campaign was discovered earlier this year and Meta removed a total of 39 Facebook and 26 Instagram accounts, as well as 16 Pages and two Groups, all for violating the company’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
The social media giant admitted its large-scale operation went beyond those several dozen accounts and across many other internet platforms, including Twitter, YouTube and Telegram — as well as major Russian social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki. It seemed to play down the discovery by insisting that the “the majority of this operation’s posts had little to no involvement of authentic communities” and mark similar “misleading campaigns” by China and Russia.
Meta’s admission corroborates a Washington Post bombing investigation that found the Pentagon was forced into a “sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare,” after a variety of social media accounts, which the agents used to target a foreign audience in extensive psychological warfare, were exposed.
The removal of the influence network was initially highlighted by researchers at Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory, who published a report in August about online networks allegedly “pro-western”, anti-Russia and other politicized narratives.
While the original study did not place the blame for the bogus accounts on any particular actor, two officials later told the Post that US CENTCOM — the combatant command that oversees military forces in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia — “among those whose activities are under scrutiny” for his influence operations.
At the time, CENTCOM declined to comment on whether any of the suspicious accounts were created by its staff or contractors, but an official claimed such behavior would “definitely a violation of doctrine and training practices.”
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