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In sharing information, social media has become a hugely relevant platform. This also means that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and now TikTok are all tools used in the disinformation and propaganda game. In the past, American officials have accused countries like Russia and China of manipulating social networks to sow divisions and discord in the US and even manipulate political elections.
But now, the tables have turned. On Wednesday, Graphika Inc and the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) released a pivotal study on Western social media activity in Asia. It reveals how a web of fake accounts has been sharing pro-Western narratives, trying to discredit countries including China, Russia, and Iran. One major campaign focused on criticizing Russia for civilian deaths and other harm caused by the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Facebook and Twitter have since taken down these sham accounts. Twitter said the accounts violated platform manipulation and spam policies, and Meta described them as “coordinated inauthentic behavior." At the moment, researchers haven’t attributed the interconnected spam accounts to any specific organization, but Meta and Twitter have presumed that the areas of origin were the US and the UK.
“These posts primarily focused on US support for central Asian countries and their people, presenting Washington as a reliable economic partner that would curb the region’s dependence on Russia. Other posts argued that the US was the main guarantor of Central Asia’s sovereignty against Russia, frequently citing the war in Ukraine as evidence of the Kremlin’s ‘imperial’ ambitions," the report released on Wednesday by Graphika Inc and the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) said.
“Importantly, the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online," researchers also said.