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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Facebook said Tuesday it took down the first-ever coordinated inauthentic campaign engaged in U.S. politics that originated from China.

Why it matters: China is upping its online disinformation game beyond its own borders. The effort was part of a larger campaign that targeted Southeast Asia.

  • In recent months, China has abandoned its typical disinformation tactics focused on national propaganda and adopted a more Russian-like approach — using fake news to manipulate adversaries and boast its reputation abroad.
  • While there's no proof the Chinese campaign was state-sponsored, it falls in line with broader tactics now being leveraged by the Communist Party.

Details: Facebook said Tuesday on a call with reporters that it removed two separate networks for violating its policies against coordinated inauthentic behavior: One from China and the other from the Philippines.

The Chinese campaign was primarily aimed at Southeast Asia, with a small number of posts that targeted the U.S.

  • The activity originated in the Fujian province of China and focused on the Philippines and the U.S. The campaign used VPNs in an attempt to mask its identity.
  • Facebook's Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the company found no evidence that the campaign, at this point, is linked to the government.
  • Facebook said the U.S. part of the campaign "gained almost no following," but posted content for and against Pete Buttigieg, President Trump and Joe Biden.
  • The rest of the campaign focused on Southeast Asia and discussed global news and current events in Filipino and Chinese dialects.
  • Facebook removed 155 accounts, 11 pages, 9 groups and 6 Instagram accounts for violating its foreign or government interference policy and engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity.
  • The company said around $60 was uncovered in spending for Facebook ads in Chinese yuan.

The Filipino campaign, Facebook says, has been linked to the nation's government, but focused on domestic Filipino audiences.

  • Facebook said it removed 57 Facebook accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts linked to this operation. The company added that around $1,100 was uncovered in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in Philippine peso.

The big picture: This isn't the first time Facebook has uncovered a Chinese-based influence operation. The company said it removed a coordinated inauthentic behavior campaign originating from China in August 2019. That campaign, however, was focused on Hong Kong, and there was no evidence that it targeted America politics whatsoever.

Go deeper: China adopts Russia's disinformation playbook

Go deeper

Series / Misinformation age

Platforms give pols a free pass to lie

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the past week, Facebook and Twitter have codified a dual-class system for free speech: one set of rules for politicians or "world leaders," another for the rest of us.

Why it matters: Social media platforms are privately owned spaces that have absorbed a huge chunk of our public sphere, and the rules they're now hashing out will shape the information climate around elections for years to come.

Jun 29, 2020 - Technology

Facebook boycott battle goes global

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Madison Avenue boycott against Facebook has quickly grown into a worldwide movement against the content moderation policies of social media giants.

Why it matters: The initial Facebook boycott among advertisers, prompted by Facebook's refusal to fact-check a post by President Trump, has hit a nerve amongst people outside of the marketing community, who think boycotting social media advertising altogether could help to create a healthier internet.

Ranking the 5 big suits against Google and Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook stands to lose the most, but Google is more likely to lose: That's the consensus of experts Axios asked to rank the threats the two tech giants face as five separate major antitrust lawsuits bear down on them.

Why it matters: A loss for Facebook or Google in any of the cases could force deep changes in how Silicon Valley does business — and even lead to a court-ordered breakup.