A recent report published Meta reveals that individuals associated with China’s law enforcement agencies conducted a massive covert digital influence operation with the aim of discrediting Western nations and promoting Beijing’s agenda. The operation targeted more than 50 social media and online platforms, including Facebook, Reddit, Medium, YouTube, Twitter, and Quora.
On Facebook, users linked to China’s authoritarian government amassed over 550,000 followers spreading false information about the United States’ alleged involvement in creating the COVID-19 pandemic and criticizing Washington’s support of Taiwan. On Reddit, Chinese-linked individuals falsely implicated former British Prime Minister Liz Truss in the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
While the influence campaign received minimal engagement from real social media users, Meta’s analysis highlights the extensive efforts individuals associated with the Chinese government to spread misinformation. This campaign demonstrates China’s increasing presence as a disinformation spreader alongside Russia, particularly in the lead-up to major elections in the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom next year.
According to Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead, the China campaign is “the largest covert influence operation that’s currently active in the world today.” These individuals consistently strive to promote messages that praise China, criticize the United States, and undermine Western foreign policies.
Meta’s report also reveals a separate covert influence campaign Russian groups that created fake news websites resembling those of reputable media outlets. These websites were used to push pro-Kremlin narratives and support the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The tactics used Chinese and Russian actors in these influence operations are expected to intensify in the lead-up to the upcoming elections.
Despite the sophistication of the tactics employed, the impact of these campaigns has been minimal. Many of the false claims made the Chinese and Russian actors quickly attracted attention and backlash from real users, undermining their credibility.
Sources: Meta analysis, POLITICO analysis