Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and Twitter Inc. have removed accounts that pushed pro-Western content to audiences in the Middle East and Russian-speaking Central Asia, including posts critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a report released Wednesday.
The takedowns by two of the most prominent social-media companies mark some of the first instances of a covert online propaganda campaign that promoted Western ideas, rather than past efforts linked to authoritarian governments seeking to undermine the U.S. and its allies.
It wasn’t clear who was behind the accounts, which Meta removed for violating its rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and Twitter took down under its policies against platform manipulation and spam. Meta identified the U.S. as the “country of origin,” while Twitter said the U.S. and the U.K. were the “presumptive countries of origin,” the researchers said. The researchers also observed evidence suggesting possible connections to the U.S. military.
The posts, which appeared on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social-media platforms, included anti-extremism messaging and sought to advocate for Western foreign policy, the report found. At other times the focus of some accounts was to highlight China’s treatment within its borders of Muslim minorities, particularly the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.
More recently, posts—sometimes hundreds a day—criticized Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine, highlighting alleged atrocities committed by Russian troops. The social-media accounts shared news articles from media outlets funded by the U.S. government, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and links to websites backed by the U.S. military.
Read more at the Wall Street Journal.