Facebook has removed dozens of accounts for violating foreign or government policy interference, including many linked to the Philippine military and police.
Operating under two main networks, coming from China and the Philippines, the people behind the activities had coordinated with each other and used fake accounts as an integral part of activities to mislead people about who they were and what they did.
For the Chinese network, Facebook removed 155 accounts, 11 pages, nine groups and six accounts Instagram for coordinated non-authentic conduct by foreign or governmental bodies, defined as foreign or governmental intervention. Such activities came from China and focused mainly on the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
In addition, approximately 133.000 accounts had followed at least one of these pages, and 61.000 people had joined at least one of these groups. Another 150 accounts had followed at least one of these Instagram accounts. About $ 60 was also spent on advertisements, paid in Chinese yuan.
"We found many groups that relied on fake accounts to represent the locals in the target countries. They published in groups, enhanced their own content, managed pages, did like and commented on other people's posts, in particular on naval activity in the South China Sea, including Navy ships USA", Said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook's security policy, in a post on Tuesday. "This campaign took security measures to hide its identity and location, including the use of VPNs (virtual private networks)."
Some of the pages had previously been removed for violating the site's unauthorized behavior and unwanted policies, Gleicher said.
They had published in Chinese, Filipino and English about world news and current events, including Beijing's interests in the South China Sea and Hong Kong. They also focused on content supporting the possible struggle of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Sarah Dutter in the country's 2022 presidential election, as well as criticism of Rappler, an independent news organization Φιλιππίνες, which notified Facebook of some of the content.
Facebook searches have found "links" with people in China's Fujian province.
According to Gleicher, among those removed, the network of the Philippines was behind 57 Facebook accounts, 31 pages and 20 Instagram accounts and focused on tries to the domestic public. Specifically, this network was found to have links to the army and police in the Philippines.
276.000 accounts followed at least one of these pages, while 5.500 people followed at least one of the Instagram accounts. About $ 1.100 was spent on Facebook ads and paid for in Philippine pesos.
The Philippine network included several groups that relied on fake accounts to post content, comment and manage pages, he said, adding that the business appears to have accelerated between 2019 and 2020. The network published in Filipino and Αγγλικά on local news and events, such as domestic politics, military counter-terrorism activities, various anti-terrorism bills, communism, as well as the Communist Party of the Philippines.