Dec 20, 2019 - World

Facebook removes fake accounts targeting Chinese speakers

Someone holds a cell phone with the Facebook logo in the background.

Photo: Chesnot / Contributor/Getty Images

Facebook announced on Friday that it has removed two networks "for engaging in foreign and government interference."

Why it matters: Social media companies are under pressure to keep up with the deluge of state-linked online messaging aimed at altering popular opinion and voter behavior.

  • Facebook's head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher wrote that the company removed two networks that engaged in coordinated activity "on behalf of a government or foreign actor."

Details: The social media giant said that each network had different origins and targeted different groups.

  • One network was active in the country of Georgia, which shares its northern border with Russia. It targeted domestic Georgian audiences.
  • A second network originated in Vietnam and the United States, and targeted those countries, as well as Chinese- and Spanish-speaking audiences around the world.
  • The accounts and pages included "impersonations" of media outlets, political parties and groups, as well as public figures.

Background: Facebook has come under fire for its failure to prevent the spread of targeted disinformation during the 2016 U.S. election, as well as similar state-coordinated disinformation campaigns in other countries.

  • There is growing concern that the Chinese government is using U.S.-based social media platforms to shape opinion abroad, particularly among the Chinese diaspora.
  • In September, Twitter announced that it removed thousands of accounts that had participated in a coordinated campaign, originating in China, to attack Hong Kong protesters and spread Chinese government propaganda related to the protests.

What they're saying:

  • "We’re taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted," wrote Gleicher.
  • "In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action."

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