US Accused Over Huge 'Covert pro-Western' Digital Campaign Targeting Middle East

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Dozens of social media accounts operating for years in an attempt to influence people in the Middle East and Asia have been shut down. Now a major new study believes the US is likely behind it

Facebook parent company Meta has determined that a coordinated campaign targeting countries in the Middle East has links to the U.S. military, according to the company’s latest Adversarial Threat Report. 

Facebook said it removed 39 Facebook accounts, 16 Pages, two Groups and 26 accounts on Instagram for violating their rules around “coordinated inauthentic behavior” — a term they use to describe fictitious social media campaigns typically carried out by governments.

The campaign specifically focused on Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Facebook noted that they were not the only social media site that the campaign targeted. They also found fake accounts on Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, VKontakte, Odnoklassniki and others. 

“It included several clusters of fake accounts on our platforms, some of which were detected and disabled by our automated systems prior to our investigation. The majority of this operation’s posts had little to no engagement from authentic communities,” the company explained. 

“Although the people behind this operation attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the US military.”

Facebook said it started an investigation into suspected inauthentic activity following an August report from researchers at Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory that highlighted pro-Western influence operations on social media. 

Meta said the posts generally covered “sports and culture in a particular country; cooperation with the United States, including military cooperation; and criticism of Iran, China, or Russia.”

The Washington Post reported in September that the Defense Department ordered a review of the “information warfare” program after the White House and other agencies raised concerns about the military’s attempts to influence people overseas.