Aug. 24 (UPI) — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have shut down hundreds of social media accounts designed to spread pro-U.S. views overseas, according to a report released Wednesday.
The joint investigation by Graphika and Stanford Internet Observatory spent five years evaluating pro-Western covert influence operations and found a web of accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and five other social media platforms that used deceptive tactics to promote United States’ narratives in the Middle East and central Asia.
“Consistently across the campaigns we saw them advancing narratives in support of the U.S. and allies, and particularly criticizing Russia, China and Iran,” said Jack Stubbs, Graphika’s vice president of intelligence.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram often crack down on propaganda accounts or influence operations. The fake accounts discovered in the investigation garnered little to no attention before they were taken down.
“The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than just a handful of likes and retweets,” Stubbs said.
According to the report, the accounts featured fake personas and fake news sites that sometimes plagiarized real articles to counter messaging from Russia, China and Iran. Some of the articles came from U.S. government-funded Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The pro-U.S. campaigns criticized Russia for the deaths of innocent civilians in its pursuit of the Kremlin’s “imperial ambitions” following its invasion of Ukraine in February. The campaigns also targeted Iran for its human rights record and China for its internment of Muslim Uighurs.
Twitter and Meta, which runs Facebook and Instagram, did not share any technical details about the accounts. Twitter listed the “presumptive countries of origin” as the United States and Great Britain. Facebook determined the account activity came from the United States. Neither company has attributed the activity to any one organization.