Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Faustin-Archange Touadera, president of the Central African Republic, gives a speech at a campaign rally in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 12, 2020. Photo: Xinhua/André Bâ via Getty Images

Facebook took down three networks of accounts that were waging online influence campaigns in Africa, which researchers linked to an infamous Russian troll farm and the French military.

Why it matters: The report offers an unusual look into an antagonistic online influence campaign that pitted two adversaries against each other in real time.

  • It is also a rare window into an online influence campaign authored by a Western U.S. ally.

Details: The French and Russian operations, which targeted people in the Central African Republic (CAR) and other African countries, did not merely run in parallel, but often took shots at one another on Facebook, according to a new report by the social networks analytics firm Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory.

What they’re saying: “From January 2020 through to the moment of the takedown, the rival influence operations posted in the same groups, commented on each other’s posts, called each other out as ‘fake news,’ conducted basic open-source analysis to expose each other’s fake accounts, friended each other, shared each other’s posts, and even, according to one source, tried to entrap each other with direct messages,” per the report.

Yes, but: There were important differences in the French and Russian operations, notes the report. Though they did post pro-French military content, the French operatives eschewed the type of direct online electoral influence attempts pervasive in the Russian campaigns.

  • In CAR, the French “posted almost exclusively about Russian interference and Russian trolls,” says the report. “Unlike the Russian operation, it did not post systematically about electoral politics and avoided commenting on the upcoming election and its candidates.”

The bottom line: The use of covert online influence networks by France — a democratic Western power — still carries great risks of moral and ethical condemnation, says the report.

Go deeper

Social media's long march toward banning Trump

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Big Tech companies took swift action to limit President Trump's online reach following Wednesday's riot at the Capitol. Facebook announced his account would be shut down "indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks" and Twitter promised to ban him if he breaks its rules one more time.

Yes, but: The companies had been preparing for this moment for a while.

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy
Scoop

White House plots "full-court press" for $1.9 trillion relief plan

National Economic Council director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden White House is deploying top officials to get a wide ideological spectrum of lawmakers, governors and mayors on board with the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The broad, choreographed effort shows just how crucially Biden views the stimulus to the nation's recovery and his own political success.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!