Dec 20, 2019

Facebook removes fake accounts targeting Chinese speakers

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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Updates: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued for a seventh day across the U.S., with President Trump threatening on Monday to deploy the military if the unrest continues.

The latest: Four police officers were struck by gunfire while standing near a line in St Louis on Monday after a peaceful demonstration, Police Chief John Hayden said early Tuesday. They were all taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He said a small group of people had thrown rocks and fireworks at police officers.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,273,402 — Total deaths: 375,683 — Total recoveries — 2,697,873Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,811,277 — Total deaths: 105,147 — Total recoveries: 458,231 — Total tested: 17,340,682Map.
  3. Public health: Nearly 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes have been reported to federal health officials —Coronavirus looms over George Floyd protests across the country.
  4. Federal government: Trump lashes out at governors, calls for National Guard to "dominate" streets.
  5. World: Former FDA commissioner says "this is not the time" to cut ties with WHO.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The virus didn't go away.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

St. John's clergy: Trump used church as prop, Bible as symbol of division

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Clergy of the historic St. John's Episcopal Church expressed furor and confusion over President Trump's visit on Monday, which he claimed was to honor the establishment after George Floyd protestors sparked a small fire on the property Sunday night.

The big picture: Park rangers and military police deployed tear gas and physical force to disperse peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park, which surrounds the White House, so Trump could walk to "pay respects" to the church — and a St. John's rector on the scene revealed in a Facebook post that she was left "coughing" from the tear gas.