Meta took down thousands of fake accounts linked to massive Chinese propaganda campaign

The takedowns were part of "the most prolific covert influence operation" the company has ever seen.

Dado Ruvic / reuters

Meta has shared details about a massive network of fake accounts that attempted to spread pro-China propaganda on its platform. The company said the takedowns were linked to “individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement” who operated similar fake accounts on dozens of other platforms.

While the company regularly shares updates on its takedowns of fake accounts engaged in widespread manipulation, Meta’s security security researchers said the latest effort was particularly notable for the size and scope of the operation. In all, Meta took down 7,704 Facebook accounts, 954 Pages, 15 Groups and 15 Instagram accounts, making it one of the largest networks of fake accounts the company has ever uncovered.

During a call with reporters, Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead, described the effort as “the most prolific covert influence operation that we know of in the world today.” He noted that the group behind the accounts were also active on X, Reddit, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest and dozens of other social platforms.

According to Meta, the fake accounts tried to spread pro-China messages, including “positive commentary about China and its province Xinjiang and criticisms of the United States, Western foreign policies, and critics of the Chinese government including journalists and researchers.” The company attributed the accounts to law enforcement figures within China, but didn’t name a specific agency or organization. Meta did confirm it found evidence linking the fake accounts to a previously known pro-China influence operation that first surfaced in 2019, which security researchers dubbed "Spamouflage."

Despite the size of the effort, Meta said the people behind the fake accounts weren’t particularly skilled or successful in their efforts to go viral. “Spamouflage consistently struggled to reach beyond its own (fake) echo chamber,” Meta wrote in its quarterly security report. “Many comments on Spamouflage posts that we have observed came from other Spamoflauge accounts trying to make it look like they were more popular than they were.”

Still, Nimmo said the entities behind Spamouflage were unlikely to give up. “This operation is large, prolific and persistent,” he said. “We expect it to keep on trying.”