Vulnerability Management

Meta confirms US military tied to fake social media accounts in influence campaign

An aerial view of the Pentagon.
Meta confirmed removing fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram that were promoting U.S. interests and were associated with members of United States military. (Defense Department)

A network of fake accounts across Facebook and Instagram that were promoting a pro-U.S. narrative was tied to individuals associated with the U.S. military, parent company Meta said Tuesday.

The social media giant removed dozens of phony accounts along with relevant pages and groups that impersonated their targeted communities and spread contents that depicted the U.S. in a favorable light in the Middle East and Central Asia, the company said in its quarterly adversarial threat report.

Meta said that the people behind the operation “attempted to conceal their identities and coordination,” but the company still “found links to individuals associated with the U.S. military.”

On Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesperson told SC Media that the department is aware of Meta’s report but did not comment or suggest potential actions as a result.

The Washington Post reported in September that the Pentagon ordered an audit of clandestine information warfare when the operation was first disclosed in August in a joint investigation by Stanford Internet Observatory and social media intelligence company Graphika, with whom Meta shared detailed information about the network. According to the Post, U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, is among the entities under the Pentagon’s scrutiny.

The joint study published in August revealed that the campaigns promoting pro-Western narratives were not a one-time operation but had lasted for nearly five years.

“These campaigns consistently advanced narratives promoting the interests of the United States and its allies while opposing countries including Russia, China, and Iran,” the study read. “The accounts heavily criticized Russia in particular for the deaths of innocent civilians and other atrocities its soldiers committed in pursuit of the Kremlin’s ‘imperial ambitions’ following its invasion of Ukraine in February this year.”

The study also noted that the fake accounts sometimes shared news articles from U.S. government-funded media outlets and U.S. military-sponsored websites to further propagate their contents.

Meta’s report Tuesday confirmed that the campaigns posted criticism of Iran, China, and Russia, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s treatment of Uyghur people, Iran’s influence in the Middle East, and the support of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by Russia and China.

In addition, Meta said the operation also spread misinformation about terrorism concerns, U.S. military activities, and the COVID-19 pandemic, with some of them being removed by the company.

Menghan Xiao

Menghan Xiao is a cybersecurity reporter at SC Media, covering software supply chain security, workforce/business, and threat intelligence. Before SC Media, Xiao studied journalism at Northwestern University, where she received a merit-based scholarship from Medill and Jack Modzelewski Scholarship Fund.

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