The State Department running fake social media accounts to foment revolution isn’t some new thing. This methodology was first rolled out during the Arab Spring, nearly a decade ago.
It’s cheap and easy and it works.
By the way, this is what they were basically accusing Russia of doing in 2016. Though there was never any evidence they did this, this is what the US government defines as “foreign election meddling.”
When Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the nation’s legitimate president in January 2019, an Instagram account, @FrenteLibreVzla, posted a video declaring him a “new leader” who would bring freedom to the embattled nation, according to a research report published Friday.
Those watching the video had no way of knowing the account was based not in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, but downtown Washington, managed by a strategic communications firm with clients across Latin America.
The firm, CLS Strategies, this week became the latest communications company to be chastised by Facebook for using fake accounts — including on Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary — to secretly manipulate politics in another country, in violation of Facebook’s prohibition on foreign interference.
CLS Strategies said Friday that it had launched an internal investigation in conjunction with an outside law firm and put the head of its Latin American practice on administrative leave. But it disputed that its activities amount to foreign interference, saying the clients it was representing were located in the affected countries.
Yeah, I’m sure.
“Importantly, our past client work in Latin America, including opposition to oppressive regimes, was not conducted on behalf of foreign entities — the work was funded and directed by clients inside each country. This makes CLS’s work very different from the foreign influence activities reported by Facebook, and any characterization of CLS’ work in the three countries at issue as ‘foreign’ is wrong,” CLS Strategies’ chief executive Bob Chlopak said in a statement.
“We take very seriously the issues raised by Facebook and others regarding CLS’ past advertising in Latin America,” Chlopak said in his statement, adding that the company wants to “ensure future work of CLS meets the highest standards of transparency and advertising platforms.”
Facebook announced Tuesday it had closed 55 accounts, 42 pages and 36 Instagram accounts linked to CLS Strategies that targeted politics in Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico. The effort spent $3.6 million in advertising across all three countries, a sum that Facebook executives said was notable for its size and reflective of what happens when actors with deep pockets mount a disinformation operation. The pages had amassed more than 500,000 followers, Facebook said.
Friday’s report, by the Stanford Internet Observatory, a disinformation research group that had been provided data by Facebook, focused on the accounts active in Bolivia and Venezuela, including several real accounts operated by CLS Strategies employees. The researchers did not find that the accounts closed by Facebook operated in tandem to artificially amplify content, but they found that 11 of the accounts targeting Bolivia were opened in the same time period, in February 2020, and listed four managers in the United States, one in Bolivia and one in Venezuela.
The report also noted that CLS Strategies employees had previous professional ties to opposition political leaders in Venezuela.
The accounts targeting Bolivia supported Interim President Jeanine Áñez and criticized her predecessor, Evo Morales, who resigned amid nationwide protests in November after nearly 14 years in office.
One of the fake Facebook pages, Prohibido olvidar, posted content mainly about allegations of electoral fraud by Morales and had 524 likes and 595 followers, the report found. It said that another fake Bolivian Facebook page, Bolificado, portrayed itself as a fact-checking operation and on at least one occasion contradicted the findings of authentic Bolivian fact checkers, labeling a true story “FAKE NEWS” in bold red letters.
The Stanford report described the trend of hiring a public relations or marketing firm to conduct a disinformation operation as increasingly common, noting that Facebook has conducted takedowns against communications firms in Israel, Canada, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates — and now, the United States — for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.
“It’s apparent that these campaigns have become a lucrative and in-demand service, and there are a host of digital marketing firms willing to provide them and profit off of them,” the report said.
595 followers, lol.
If I was not an utterly hopeless romantic, I could make about a bajillion dollars running one of these firms.
I could make a bajillion dollars doing a lot of things. I hope you people appreciate that fact. I’m here only because it’s the right thing for me to be doing.
It’s kind of hilarious that WaPo is pretending this group isn’t obviously being contracted by the State Department. But for some reason, even Donald Trump’s State Department is not something that the media wants to question, ever.
Funny how that all works.
Also – to just to go ahead and state the obvious – they’re doing this in America too.
Huge numbers of popular social media accounts in all of the various political fields are run by these sorts of firms, contracted by the State Department and the CIA, for the purposes of engineering society.
Remember: official “Anonymous” accounts support war in Syria, lol.
You know – so on and so forth.