Report: Facebook, Twitter Disrupt Pro-US Influence Operation

Photo: Sheera Frenkel and Tiffany Hsu/The New York Times

The Facts

  • According to a new report from the Stanford Internet Observatory and the research company Graphika, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter have removed an influence operation from their networks that allegedly promoted US foreign policy interests abroad.

  • The social platforms reportedly took down a network of fake accounts pushing pro-Western narratives in Central Asia and the Middle East, often criticizing countries like China, Russia, and Iran.

The Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

Most people still believe the US is the target of social media influence ops when in fact it is one of the most frequent global offenders. Facebook ranks the US as number four on its lists behind Russia, Iran, and Myanmar and just ahead of Ukraine. Today, influence operators are much more sophisticated than just a few years ago and offer their services to state and private clients who want deniability if caught.

Pro-establishment narrative

The real problem here is that the tech giants have failed to keep up with removing thousands of tweets, YouTube videos, and other social media posts that serve as Russian propaganda or spew anti-Ukrainian hate speech. In the wake of the war, social media apps banned Russian state media accounts, restricted ads, and bolstered fact-checking, but even this hasn't been enough.

Narrative C

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first full-blown social media war, where the social media audience is caught in the crossfire. They must decide who to believe, making them an easy target for social media influence campaigns. Living in a disinformation age or a post-truth world, it's important that we learn how to detect deception.

Nerd narrative

There is a 73% chance the US will claim that a Russian disinformation campaign attempted to influence the 2022 midterm elections, according to Metaculus Prediction Community.

Establishment split



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