(Reuters) – Facebook said Tuesday it had removed a network of non-genuine Chinese accounts interfering in Asian and American politics, including some that contain material supporting and opposing US President Donald Trump.
The social networking company said it suspended 155 accounts on the main platform along with six Instagram accounts. The most widely watched accounts and pages were in the Philippines, where they shared content supporting China’s actions in the disputed South China Sea and President Rodrigo Duterte.
U.S. accounts had fewer followers and content was posted promoting both on Nov. 3. The sides of the upcoming American election, the company said.
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook’s cyber security policy, said the cancellation was the company’s first account in China for foreign interference in any U.S. policy activity. However, he said American accounts and groups seem to have focused mainly on audience building.
“The scope of the content is so small that it is very difficult to assess what their purpose is,” Gleicher said.
Trump and his intelligence officials said China preferred Democrat rival Joe Biden, while Congressional Democrats said Russia is more aggressive.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to the email asking for comment.
The network of accounts, pages, and groups used virtual private networks and other tools to appear to be managed from outside of China, Facebook said.
Fake American pages were tracked by less than 3,000 people and more than 100,000 accounts in the Philippines.
The U.S. assets added from May to August included the Biden Harris 2020 group, which had about 1,400 members, and one Trump KAG 2020, which said it supported Trump’s re-election and had only three members, according to analytics firm Graphika. , Who studied material from Facebook.
In the Philippines, the accounts supported both Duterte and his daughter, who may flee to take over in 2022. They also criticized the independent media group Rappler, which is a frequent target of the Duterte government.
(Reports by Joseph Menn; Edited by Lisa Shumaker)