- Meta said it removed more than 600 accounts in connection with a mass disinformation campaign.
- Meta said it removed 524 Facebook and 86 Instagram accounts linked to the campaign.
- The company also said it found links between these accounts and a Chinese tech firm, Sichuan Silence Information Technology.
Meta, the recently-rebranded organization behind Facebook and Instagram, revealed in a new report on Wednesday that it had taken down hundreds of Facebook and Instagram pages linked to a mass, China-based COVID-19 disinformation campaign.
Meta’s “Adversarial Threat Report” said that the company removed 524 Facebook accounts, 86 Instagram accounts, 20 Facebook pages, and four Facebook groups linked to this disinformation campaign in November. The company added that this network of disinformation was China-based, with some accounts having links to people employed at Chinese IT firm Sichuan Silence Information Technology, as well as people linked to Chinese state infrastructure firms.
“This network originated primarily in China and targeted global English-speaking audiences in the US and the UK, and also Chinese-speaking audiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet,” wrote Meta executives Nathaniel Gleicher, Ben Nimmo, David Agranovich, and Mike Dvilyanski in the report.
This particular COVID-19 disinformation campaign that Meta busted revolved around a fake Swiss biologist, “Wilson Edwards.” “Edwards” spread a conspiracy theory that the US was attempting to place the blame for the COVID-19 pandemic squarely on China, per Meta’s report. The false claim circulated unchecked for weeks until it was revealed in August that “Wilson Edwards” did not exist.
Meta stopped short of accusing the Chinese government of wrongdoing. Still, it noted that its investigation also found that Chinese officials appeared to be interacting with the content at least 12 hours before it trended on social media and within an hour of many of the posts going up.
An Associated Press investigation previously revealed that there have been coordinated, China-based attempts to push a theory that the COVID-19 virus originated in a US bioweapons lab. The campaign involved millions of social media posts circulating on platforms including Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as mainland Chinese social networking apps like Weibo and WeChat.
In its report on Wednesday, Meta said it also deleted accounts linked to other disinformation networks. This included a network of 141 Facebook accounts and 21 Instagram accounts linked to the militant group Hamas. In addition, a smaller network connected to the Belarusian KGB that involved 41 Facebook accounts and four Instagram accounts was also removed in November.