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Expand chart
Data: Facebook; Chart: Axios Visuals

Of the 150 disinformation campaigns that Facebook has caught and removed in the past four years, the U.S. has been the most frequent target by far, according to a new threat intelligence report from Facebook.

Why it matters: While most of the campaigns targeting the U.S. have originated abroad, Facebook found that a significant number of campaigns targeting people in the U.S. have originated from inside the U.S.

  • "I think it's significant that while we saw a lot of foreign targeting of the U.S. ahead of 2020 election, there was also a lot of domestic targeting," says Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy.
  • One campaign the company points to was the network operated by a U.S. based marketing firm, working on behalf of its clients, including a pro-Trump organization.

By the numbers: In total, the company said there were 16 takedowns of coordinated inauthentic behavior networks, or disinformation campaigns, ahead of the 2020 elections.

  • Of those 16 networks, five originated in Russia, five originated in Iran, and five originated in the the U.S. One originated in China.

Be smart: Not all networks caught were attributed to individuals or organizations tied to governments, but a few targeting the U.S. ahead of the 2020 election were attributed to Russia and Iran.

  • Facebook said it saw its first-ever "perception hack" stem from Iran last year, in which Iran-based actors use social media to create the false perception that they’ve pulled off major hacks of electoral systems.

Between the lines: Gleicher said the U.S. is uncovering more of these attempts thanks to a robust civic infrastructure, including cyber firms and academics in place to find and stop these types of interferences.

  • He notes that other countries that are often targeted with disinformation campaigns also tend to have strong communities trying to police this type of activity, including Ukraine and UK.
  • Countries that are experiencing high levels of civil unrest, like Myanmar, have also seen numerous examples of networks that originate in the same country of the people they are targeting.

The big picture: The findings from its most recent threat report show that online information warfare has become a common and pervasive tactic for political actors, and sometimes governments, to target both foreign adversaries and their own people.

  • Overall, Gleicher says Facebook has gotten better at uncovering and stopping more campaigns over the past few years. "The sophistication tends to get smaller," he said. "We're catching more, smaller operations."

Go deeper

Aug 25, 2021 - World

U.S. has options if Iran talks fail, officials say ahead of Israeli PM's visit

Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty

If diplomacy fails, the U.S. will consider using other means to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, senior Biden administration officials said in a briefing ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's visit to the White House.

Why it matters: Iran is the main agenda item for Bennett's visit, and he is expected to push for a "Plan B" now that nuclear talks have stalled. The U.S. officials didn't say what exactly the administration would consider but are clearly trying to reassure the Israelis that they are willing to pressure Iran.

The consumer's massive "war chest"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Economists expect the pace of economic growth to cool off now that government transfer payments like stimulus checks and emergency unemployment benefits are in the rearview mirror. But evidence suggests that the U.S. consumer is sitting on a lot of financial firepower that could be a key driver of growth in the quarters to come.

Why it matters: U.S. consumer spending is massive, representing about 70% of GDP.

The Fed takes on its own rules amid stock trading controversy

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New disclosures that showed Fed officials were active in financial markets set off a firestorm of criticism. Now the Fed may overhaul the long-standing rules that allow those transactions.

Why it matters: What officials actively traded was sensitive to the Fed decisions they helped shape, including the unprecedented support that underpinned a massive financial market boom.