Rahul Sachitanand
Sep 23, 2020

Facebook takes down networks in China and The Philippines for misleading content

More than 155 accounts removed for what the company calls coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

Examples of content taken down by Facebook.
Examples of content taken down by Facebook.

Facebook has removed two separate networks for violating its policy against what it terms coordinated inauthentic behaviour (CIB). One of these networks originated in China and the other in the Philippines.

In a detailed post, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Security Policy for Facebook, noted that in each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing. When Facebook investigates and removes this content, it focuses on behaviour rather than content, Gleicher noted.

Earlier this year, the platform started publishing regular CIB reports where it shared information about the networks it took down. The takedowns announced on Wednesday, 22 September, will also be included in its September report, which it makes publicly available

As part of this process, Facebook has removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, nine groups and six  Instagram accounts for violating its policy against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behaviour on behalf of a foreign or government entity.

This activity originated in China and focused primarily on the Philippines and Southeast Asia more broadly, and also on the United States.

To effect these shutdowns, Facebook identified several clusters of connected activity that relied on fake accounts to pose as locals in countries they targeted, post in Groups, amplify their own content, manage pages, like and comment on other people’s posts particularly about naval activity in the South China Sea, including US Navy ships.

This campaign took operational security steps to conceal their identity and location including through the use of VPNs. Some of this network’s pages were previously removed for violating our inauthentic behaviour and spam policies.

The content from these taken down locations covered a wide arc of topics and geographies, according to the Facebook note.

  • In Southeast Asia where this network focused most of its activity, they posted in Chinese, Filipino and English about global news and current events including Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea and Hong Kong
  • Content supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte and Sarah Duterte’s potential run in the 2022 Presidential election
  • Criticism of Rappler, an independent news organisation in the Philippines
  • Issues relevant to the overseas Filipino workers and praise and some criticism of China.
  • In the US, where this network focused the least and gained almost no following, they posted content both in support of and against presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Facebook found this network as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behaviour in the region. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, an investigation tied this network's location to Fujian province of China.

Facebook also removed 57 Facebook accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts for violating its policy against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity. This network originated in in the Philippines and focused on domestic audiences.

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