Facebook takes down hundreds of fake Chinese accounts spreading COVID-19 disinformation

Facebook takes down hundreds of fake Chinese accounts spreading COVID-19 disinformation

Facebook and Instagram recently took down a Chinese network of accounts, pages and groups reportedly engaging in a coordinated disinformation campaign about COVID-19. 

The takedown: Meta, the social media platforms’ parent company, released its Adversarial Threat Report on Wednesday, detailing how hundreds of accounts weaved a narrative that the United States was actively putting China in a negative light.

  • The report traced the inauthentic social media behavior from a Facebook account under the name of Wilson Edwards.
  • Posing as a Swiss biologist, the account claimed in July that the U.S. was pushing the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame China for the pandemic.

  • Within two days, the post was spread by hundreds of social media accounts and published in Chinese state media reports.

  • Swiss authorities would later confirm that the account is fake as the biologist does not exist in real life.

  • In August, the Swiss embassy in Beijing urged Chinese media to take down what it dubbed as “false news” articles, reported the BBC.

Government’s hands: Meta’s researchers claim to have evidence that Chinese government officials engaged the post within an hour of posting, with employees helping to grow the post’s reach. 

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  • Global IO Threat Intel Lead Ben Nimmo told reporters: “In effect, it worked like an online Hall of Mirrors, endlessly reflecting the original fake persona and its anti-U.S. information.”
  • Facebook removed the “Wilson Edwards” account in August, along with 524 other Facebook accounts, 20 Facebook pages, four Facebook groups and 86 Instagram accounts soon after. One of the pages had over 70,000 followers before it was taken down.
  • The report also highlighted similar malicious efforts in other parts of the world, including inauthentic activity in Vietnam that mass reported posts by activists criticizing the Vietnamese government. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally agreed to the demands of the Vietnamese government to block content that it deemed to be illegal.

Featured Image via Edward Lawrence

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