Facebook announced late Tuesday that it banned a range of Chinese accounts, pages, and groups for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” that included posts about U.S. presidential candidates.
The ban removed 155 accounts, 11 pages, and 9 groups on Facebook, as well as 6 Instagram accounts, all of which originated in China and were found to be posting content “both in support of and against presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden and Donald Trump.”
It is the first public announcement of U.S. election meddling originating from China, according to the New York Times.
An additional 57 Facebook accounts, 31 pages, and 20 Instagram accounts originating in the Philippines were also banned.
Facebook identified activity from the banned accounts 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.”
Facebook noted that some of the network’s pages were “previously removed for violating our inauthentic behavior and spam policies” and that the campaign had utilized VPNs to keep their identity and location secret.
The ban comes three weeks after Facebook banned more than a dozen Russian accounts who also conducted “inauthentic behavior.”
Those Russian accounts entailed 13 accounts and two pages linked to individuals connected to the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), a group accused of interfering in the 2016 election.
In 2018, the Department of Justice had indicted the IRA and several connected individuals and companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
The indictment alleged that the individuals had conspired with one another beginning in 2014 for the purpose of “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”