US military is creating fake Facebook and Instagram accounts to try and trick people, Meta says

Accounts were found on Facebook, Instagram – and away from Meta’s platform, it says  (PA Archive)
Accounts were found on Facebook, Instagram – and away from Meta’s platform, it says (PA Archive)

The US military has been creating fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram in an attempt to trick people, parent company Meta has said.

Security experts at Meta found “several clusters” of fake accounts on the platform, which posed as apparently legitimate accounts.

The accounts were present not only on Meta’s own platforms but across a range of other networks, including Twitter, YouTube and Telegram, it said.

They were used to push pro-Western narratives across the world, over a series of years, according to an investigation into the campaign.

“Although the people behind this operation attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the US military,” Meta said in its latest ‘Adversarial Threat Report’, which details the efforts of its security teams to stop such deceptive campaigns.

The posts were focused on a range of countries, it said: Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

But they had also proven largely unsuccessful. “The majority of this operation’s posts had little to no engagement from authentic communities,” it said.

Some of them were detected and disabled by automated systems even before humans had investigated them, it said.

The removals happened in July and August of this year, according to an academic report into the campaigns that were announced earlier this year.

That report, written by independent researchers at Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory, said that the accounts had been pushing pro-Western and anti-Russian messages, for instance, and directing people to US military websites.

But the campaign “also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online”, the researchers noted. Most of the posts received a very small amount of engagement: the average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets, it said, and the two most popular accounts actually declared their connection to the US military.