Spreading memes and fake news to countries like Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Iran
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The US and other Western countries have been doing the same thing as Russia and China, using social media to spread misinformation. A recent report from social network analysis firm Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory has uncovered a series of operations that aim to promote pro-Western narratives in countries like Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Iran.

The report states that a group of accounts were removed from their platforms due to their platform manipulation. The accounts have been carrying out campaigns to criticize or support foreign governments and have offered takes on culture and politics for a long time. The link sharing was done by the US government and military.

Some of the political cartoons shared by the accounts.
Images: Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory

The data was analyzed from 146 accounts on social media, 39 profiles on Facebook, and 26 accounts on the photo-sharing app. The accounts were supposed to look like real people. They said their analysis led them to believe they originated in the US and Great Britain.

The news that the US is using covert action to push its interests in other countries won't come as a surprise to anyone who's been near a history book. Just as social media companies are preparing to deal with a wave of foreign interference and misinformation in our own elections, these operations were discovered.

The report comes on the heels of a bombshell report from Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, a former head of security at the company, who accused the company of misrepresenting the number of bots on its platform.


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The report didn't find any hacking techniques that took advantage of weak security The Internet Observatory staffer said that there was nothing technically interesting about the network. She said that it wasn't the case that the influence operation started in the US.

If you have time, you can read the full report, which breaks down how the accounts were posted and explores what kind of content they shared. There were a lot of fake news.

According to the report, the vast majority of posts andtweets we reviewed received no more than a few likes or retweets, and only a small portion of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The accounts with the most followers explicitly said they were tied to the military. When I pay my taxes next year, I won't think about how much it costs.


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