Wednesday 23 September 2020 10:17 am

Facebook removes network of Chinese accounts over US election influence

Facebook has said it has taken down a number of inauthentic Chinese accounts for attempting to influence elections and political activity in the US and Philippines.

The company said it had suspended 155 accounts on Facebook and six Instagram accounts.

Some of the accounts had been sharing content both in support and opposition of US President Donald Trump, ahead of the election on 3 November.

The most active accounts were in the Philippines, supporting China’s actions in the contested South China Sea and President Rodrigo Duterte.

More than 100,000 accounts followed those fake pages, while fewer than 3,000 pages engaged with the US accounts.

The network of accounts, pages and groups used virtual private networks (VPNs) to make it appear they were operated from outside China, where Facebook is prohibited by the government’s firewall.

Facebook cybersecurity policy chief Nathaniel Gleicher said the suspensions were the company’s first against China-based accounts on foreign-interference grounds with engagement in US politics.

“The volume of content is so low, it’s very hard to assess what their goal is,” Gleicher said.

Republicans have argued China has been attempting to influence the election in favour of Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Democrats have claimed Russia is behind aggressive attacks against its party.

Analysis by Graphika showed the US network included a group supporting Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris with around 1,400 members. A second page was called Trump KAG 2020, which said it supported Trump’s re-election and had just three members.

Meanwhile in Philippines, accounts supported both Duterte and his daughter, who is predicted to run to succeed him in 2022.

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