Image source: Business Insider
Meta announced Tuesday that Facebook and Instagram accounts promoting US interests abroad have ties to the US military.
According to the tech giant, a network of fake accounts has been furthering interests by targeting audiences in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The announcement marks a rare instance of a US entity linking an online influence operation to Washington rather than a foreign government.
Meta has deleted more than three dozen Facebook and two dozen Instagram accounts for violating the platform’s “inauthentic coordinated behavior” policy.
While attributing it to the military, Meta did not name a specific US military command.
However, the Pentagon opened a full review in September that covered entities involved in online influence operations.
The Washington Post reported that the US Central Command was among those checked.
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Meta claimed to have deleted the fraudulent Facebook accounts.
He also added that the US was helping the country of Tajikistan secure its border with Afghanistan.
Furthermore, Meta said that Washington had been key to the region’s stability.
Researchers from analytics firm Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory documented the activity in a report in August.
The research states that Afghanistan-related posts peaked during periods of strategic importance to the United States.
It covers the months leading up to the chaotic US military withdrawal from Afghanistan last August.
On Tuesday, Meta said the people behind the accounts had taken extra steps to hide their identities.
As a result, the activity has received little attention from legitimate Facebook and Instagram users.
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A former US official who focused on Russian issues lamented the ineffective influence and/or the fact that the US military even tried.
Gavin Wilde oversaw malign Russian influence and cybersecurity issues on the National Security Council in 2018 and 2019.
He is a senior scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace today.
Regarding the meta issue, Wilde said:
“I get the impulse, which is prevalent in military circles, that ‘the only way to lose is not to play’ in the information domain.”
“However, if their methodology gambles away the transparency and credibility the US wants to claim as benchmarks of an alternative to the Russian or Chinese model, is the payoff really worth it?”
Fake Facebook and Instagram accounts promoting US interests had ties to US military, Meta says