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Facebook’s parent company: The US military is behind the support of online influence campaigns targeting Central Asia and the Middle East

Logo at Meta's corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California, November 9, 2022. (AP Photo)
Logo at Meta’s corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California, November 9, 2022. (AP Photo)

According to a report released this week by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, personnel linked to the U.S. military created fake accounts on more than seven Internet-service websites as part of a “coordinated fake” influence campaign targeting people in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Mehta said that while the people behind the operation “tried to conceal their identities and coordination efforts,” its investigation “uncovered individuals linked to the U.S. military.”

A Defense Department spokesman said Thursday (Nov. 24) that the Pentagon “took note of the report released by Meta.” At this time, we do not have any further comments on the report or possible actions by the Ministry of Defense. “

Mehta’s report adds more credibility to the claim that the U.S. military was behind the operation; This claim was first reported in August by researchers at the research group Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory.

The August report revealed pro-American actions believed to have been first reported by Facebook and Twitter; The operation operates using methods used by countries such as Russia and Iran to spread disinformation in the United States and elsewhere, including the use of false identities and coordinated dissemination of jokes.

In its report, Mehta said it had removed 39 Facebook and 26 Instagram accounts as part of a coordinated campaign targeting countries such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The campaign runs not only on Mehta’s Facebook and Instagram but also on YouTube, Telegram, and Russian social media sites VKontakte and Odnoklassniki. Odnoklassniki is a social media site based in Russia and used in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

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Mehta said the fake accounts, posted on topics such as sports or culture, emphasized cooperation with the United States and criticized Iran, China, and Russia. The posts are mainly made during business hours on the East Coast of the United States and are mainly in Arabic, Farsi, and Russian. They praised the U.S. military and added content about COVID-19, But Mehta removed it for “violating our misinformation policy.”

The company said Facebook‘s automated system detected and deleted some posts. The impact campaign generally does not appear to be having an effect on local communities. “Most of the posts on this initiative have little to no participation from the real community,” Mehta said.

According to The Washington Post, after initial disclosures about the impact operation, the Pentagon conducted a review of its covert psychological warfare operations.

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