Technology

Facebook and Twitter remove accounts pushing ‘pro-Western narratives’

Facebook and Twitter took down two overlapping sets of accounts over the past two months for promoting “pro-Western narratives” in the Middle East and Central Asia, according to a report released Wednesday. 

The social media analytics firm Graphika reported that Twitter and Meta, the company that owns Facebook, took down the accounts over a “series of covert campaigns” over a period of five years. 

Twitter said the accounts violated its policies on “platform manipulation and spam,” and Meta said it conducted “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The platforms provided portions of the accounts’ activity to Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory. 

“This activity represents the most extensive case of a covert influence operation advancing pro-Western narratives that has been publicly documented to date,” Jack Stubbs, vice president of intelligence at Graphika, told The Wall Street Journal.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the report, noting that these types of research reports are independent from the company. They said the platform’s goal in sharing data with global research partners is “to enable independent, external analysis to inform the public.”

The Hill has reached out to Meta for comment.

A joint investigation revealed that an interconnected web of accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and five other social media platforms used “deceptive” strategies to back Western narratives in the regions. 

The accounts promoted the interests of the United States and its allies while opposing those of countries such as Russia, China and Iran. They more recently criticized Russia for the deaths of civilians in Ukraine and the actions that Russian soldiers have taken as the war has continued. 

The accounts created fake personas and posed as independent news outlets, using memes and short videos, trying to start hashtag campaigns, and launching petitions to favor a cause. 

Graphika said in its analysis that the study of influence operations has mostly focused on those from “authoritarian regimes” such as Russia and China, but the report indicates that additional actors take part in these types of operations. 

But Graphika said the effectiveness of the campaigns was limited, and most posts received no more than a handful of likes. Less than 20 percent of “covert assets” had more than 1,000 followers.

Updated 10:50 a.m.

Tags Central Asia covert campaigns Facebook influence operations Meta Middle east pro-Western Twitter
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