Meta links phony accounts to people ‘associated with the US military’

Associated Press/Tony Avelar
Facebook’s Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on Oct. 28, 2021.

A network of fake accounts promoting U.S. interests to countries in the Middle East and Central Asia was linked to individuals associated with the U.S. military, Meta said Tuesday. 

Meta removed dozens of Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as additional pages and groups linked to the network, for violating its policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior, the tech giant said in its quarterly adversarial threat report. It marks a rare instance of the Silicon Valley-based company tying an influence campaign to the U.S. rather than a foreign nation.

Meta said that the people behind the operation “attempted to conceal their identities,” but the company’s investigation “found links to individuals associated with the US military.”

Pentagon spokesman César Santiago said in a statement the department is “aware of the report published by Meta” but declined to comment on the report’s findings “at this time.” 

“We will look into and assess any information that Meta provides,” Santiago added.

Meta said it shared information about the network with independent researchers at Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory. In August, the researchers published a report that accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms used “deceptive tactics to promote pro-Western narratives in the Middle East and Central Asia.”

The report said they believe the activity “represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western” influence operations on social media to be analyzed by open-source researchers. The campaigns would advance narratives promoting the interests of the U.S. and its allies and oppose countries including Russia, China and Iran.

The network was focused on Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Yemen, according to Meta. 

Updated: 12:44 p.m.

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