While countries like Russia and China have made headlines for years with disinformation and propaganda campaigns on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, it turns out that the United States and other Western countries have been playing the same game. a recent report (pdf) from social network analysis firm Graphica and Stanford Internet Observatory revealed a series of operations, some clandestine and others less dangerous, aimed at “promoting pro-Western narratives” in countries such as Russia, China, Afghanistan and Iran (Across Gizmodo).
According to the report, Twitter and Meta removed a handful of accounts from their platform earlier this month, citing platform manipulation and coordinated inauthentic code of conduct. When analyzing the accounts’ activity, the researchers found that the accounts have been campaigning to criticize or support foreign governments (sometimes the same governments, in what appears to be an attempt to sow division) and display dealing with culture and politics for years. Sometimes this is done by sharing links to news sites backed by the US government and military, the report says.
The analyzed data came from 146 Twitter accounts (tweeted 299,566 times), 39 Facebook profiles, 26 Instagram accounts, along with 16 Facebook pages and two Facebook groups. Some accounts were supposed to appear as real people and use profile pictures generated by artificial intelligence. Meta and Twitter did not specifically name any organizations or people behind the campaigns, but said their analysis led them to believe they originated in the United States and Great Britain.
for anyone 15 feet from the history bookThe news that the United States is using covert measures to advance its interests in other countries will not come as a surprise. However, it is interesting that these operations were exposed as social media companies prepare to deal with a wave of foreign interference and disinformation in our elections.
The report also comes on the heels of a report by Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former head of security, which accused the company of lax security practices and misrepresentation of the number of bots on its platform (something the US government is investigating and Twitter has vigorously denied).
Notably, the report did not reveal any advanced hacking techniques that took advantage of the security vulnerability. Talking to GizmodoThere was “nothing technically interesting about this network,” said Shelby Grossman, an employee of the Internet Watch, contrary to what we imagine the United States is operating. “You might think, ‘This process of influence originated in the United States,’ she said, ‘certainly would be private,’ but that wasn’t really the case.”
The full report A great read, if you have time, as you break down how accounts are published and delve deeper into the type of content you share. Spoiler alert: There have been memes, hashtags, petitions, and what else—fake news.
It also reveals somewhat infamous information when talking about the reach and impact of these campaigns; According to the report, “The vast majority of the posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a few likes or retweets, and only 19% of the confidential assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers.” Moreover, the two accounts with the most followers openly said that they are associated with the US military. I will try not to think about the cost of all this when I pay my taxes next year.