Meta shuts down largest covert Chinese spam network targeting global users on Facebook and Instagram

The investigation, spanning back to 2019 and conducted in partnership with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), led to the removal of nearly 9,000 accounts, pages, and groups.

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Social media giant Meta has revealed the dismantling of a sophisticated Chinese political spam network operating across Facebook and Instagram, targeting users worldwide, including Australia. The network was on over 50 platforms, including YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, and Medium.

The investigation, which began in 2019 and involved collaboration with research groups like the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), uncovered around 9,000 accounts, groups, and pages promoting content favorable to China while criticizing Western nations and their policies. The network’s approach was dubbed ‘Spamouflage’ by ASPI.

Despite using a variety of online platforms, the network struggled to extend its influence beyond its self-contained bubble. This operation was detailed in Meta’s quarterly report, highlighting ongoing challenges with online disinformation campaigns originating from various countries, such as Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

Why does it matter?

Meta’s efforts to uncover and counter disinformation networks are undeniably a positive move forward. However, this incident also underscores the limitations of present strategies in place. The fact that this expansive network operated unnoticed for an extended period raises doubts about the efficacy of content moderation mechanisms employed by these platforms, which are often heavily reliant on AI algorithms and automated systems.