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(Photo courtesy of Vjeran Pavic | The Verge)

Meta shuts down thousands of Facebook accounts made to spread polarizing political content

Facebook parent company Meta shut down nearly 4,800 accounts originating from China, seemingly made to reshare polarizing posts and inflame political tensions.

According to Meta’s quarterly Adversarial Threat Report, the accounts were set up with fake photos, names and other information to appear like typical American Facebook users, and even posted occasionally about unrelated topics like fashion or gaming. They primarily reshared news articles and posts by politicians of both parties on both Facebook and X (formerly Twitter). However, Meta removed the accounts before they could engage with “authentic communities” on Facebook.

“It’s unclear whether this approach was designed to amplify partisan tensions, build audiences among these politicians’ supporters, or to make fake accounts sharing authentic content appear more genuine,” Meta said in its report. It did not directly link the accounts to the Chinese government, but confirmed they originated from China.

Earlier in the year, a number of the accounts also reportedly changed to appear Indian, and began posting inflammatory content pertaining to Tibet under the guise of being journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates.

“These networks still struggle to build audiences, but they’re a warning,” Meta Global Threat Intel Lead Ben Nimmo told AP. “Foreign threat actors are attempting to reach people across the internet ahead of next year’s elections, and we need to remain alert.”

While Meta presents itself as committed to combatting disinformation, critics have pointed out that holes remain in its approach. While the company recently announced a new policy requiring AI-generated political ads to be flagged as such, videos doctored with more conventional methods remain.

Zamaan Qureshi, a policy adviser on the Real Facebook Oversight Board and outspoken critic of Meta, accused the company of making “empty promises to safeguard elections in 2024” in a social media post.

“This is a company that cannot be trusted,” Qureshi told AP. “Watch what Meta does, not what they say.”

The report also noted that threat sharing from government agencies has been “paused” since July, when a federal judge issued an injunction barring federal agencies from communicating with social media platforms about content moderation. The injunction is currently on hold, pending a Supreme Court ruling on the case.


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