Security researchers at Meta have identified and exposed a four-year-long propaganda campaign that they have linked to the Chinese government.
Removing the “Spamouflage” campaign: Meta removed 7,704 Facebook accounts, 954 Facebook pages, 15 Facebook groups and 15 Instagram accounts linked to the campaign, which researchers have named “Spamouflage” due to spam-like messages sent by the accounts, reported The New York Times.
“This is the biggest single takedown of a single network we have ever conducted,” Ben Nimmo, who heads Meta’s security team, told the Times. “When you put it together with all the activity we took down across the internet, we concluded it is the largest covert campaign that we know of today.”
About the campaign: Researchers revealed that the campaign was organized by Chinese law enforcement in 2019 to advance China’s interests while discrediting adversaries like the U.S. It involved spreading propaganda about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, disinformation about the origins of COVID-19, attacks on dissidents and critics abroad and attempts to sow division during the 2022 midterm elections.
The campaign appears to have been run by geographically dispersed operators across China who were centrally provisioned with internet access and content directions. The propaganda included posts on various platforms, including Reddit, Medium, Tumblr, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube, and involved translations of articles in multiple languages.
Low effectiveness: Despite its size across social media platforms, the campaign struggled to attract attention due to poor grammar, spelling errors and incongruent content.
“It was as if they copied them from a numbered list and forgot to proofread them before they posted,” Nimmo said.
Continuing efforts: However, Meta anticipates that the Chinese operatives may continue their efforts despite previous failures. In addition, Meta is actively countering a Russian influence operation named “Doppelganger,” aimed at undermining support for Ukraine. The influence operation has been identified as the largest and most persistent Russian operation since 2017.