Image source: Business Insider
Meta on Tuesday announced that Facebook and Instagram accounts promoting US interests overseas have ties to the US military.
According to the social media giant, a network of fake accounts fueled interests by targeting audiences in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The announcement marks a rare example of a US entity tying an online influence operation to Washington instead of a foreign government.
Meta has removed more than three dozen Facebook and two dozen Instagram accounts for violating the platform’s “inauthentic coordinated behavior” policy.
While attributing it to the military, Meta did not name any specific US military command.
However, in September, the Pentagon opened a full investigation covering entities involved in online influence operations.
The Washington Post reported that US central command was among those being monitored.
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Meta claimed to have deleted the fake Facebook accounts.
The company also added that the United States is helping the country of Tajikistan secure its border with Afghanistan.
Furthermore, Meta said Washington is the key to stability in the region.
Researchers from analytics firm Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory documented the activity in a report in August.
The study says Afghanistan-related posts peaked during periods of strategic importance to the United States.
It covers the months leading up to the chaotic withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan last August.
On Tuesday, Meta said the people behind the accounts had taken extra steps to hide their identities.
As a result, the activity has received little attention from legitimate users on Facebook and Instagram.
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One former US official who focused on Russian issues complained about the ineffective influence or that the US military even tried.
Gavin Wilde oversaw malign Russian influence and cybersecurity issues on the National Security Council for two years: 2018 and 2019.
Today, he is a senior scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Regarding the Meta issue, Wilde said:
“I get the impulse, which is prevalent in military circles, that ‘the only way to lose is not to play’ in the information domain.”
“However, if their methodology gambles away the transparency and credibility the US wants to claim as benchmarks of an alternative to the Russian or Chinese model, is the payoff really worth it?”
Fake Facebook and Instagram accounts promoting US interests had ties to US military, Meta says