Facebook: Fake pages from China tried to disrupt US politics

Yolanda Curtis
September 25, 2020

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has disowned the fake accounts shut down by Facebook for what it describes as coordinated inauthentic behavior relating to Philippine politics and campaign against terrorism and local communist insurgency.

Facebook says it has removed a small network of fake accounts and pages that originated in China and focused on disrupting political activity in the US and several other countries. The US-focused accounts "gained nearly no following", but the takedowns were significant enough the company opted to disclose the move ahead of its monthly report on coordinated inauthentic behavior, CNN reported.

The social networking company said it suspended 155 accounts on its main platform along with six Instagram accounts.

The operation appeared to have accelerated between 2019 and 2020, the company said.

The network had about 130,000 followers - although very few of these were in the US.

The Chinese activity, while modest and not directly attributed to the government in Beijing, could undercut Trump's repeated contention that China is intervening in the election to support former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate.

He also said that Gapay, while respecting the Facebook's ownership of the platform, urged its officials "to look into the process they observe in unilaterally removing accounts and for them to give due regard to the cause the account owner espouse to remove doubts of Facebook being partisan". While these Pages had very little reach with a USA audience, according to Facebook, they posted content both in support of and against President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee Joe Biden. "This disclosure demonstrates the involvement of the military and the police in that effort, something that activists in the country have long stressed".

The US accounts had fewer followers and posted content fueling both sides of the American election that will be held on November 3 rather than exclusively supporting one side, the company said.

They were traced back to individuals based in Fujan province, who were beginning to pay for advertisements in Chinese yuan, Facebook said. But he said the American accounts and groups seemed aimed mainly at building an audience. The group posted information both for and against Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to an email seeking comment.

According to Facebook, the people behind the network tried to hide their identity and location via virtual private networks and other methods.

Facebook has detected limited Chinese operations meant to both help and hurt President Donald Trump's reelection chances, the company announced Tuesday, the first public disclosure of Chinese efforts to influence the presidential election in November.

But there was also some criticism of China, too.

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