It is widely known that Russia conducts campaigns in social media against other countries in an attempt to influence elections, divide society or spread Kremlin ideas. This time we looked at influence campaigns on social media platforms where some other country or its affiliates tried to influence the well-being of another nation.
In May 2019, Facebook closed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts and sites that tried to influence society by spreading anti-government and anti-opposition messages and ads in Honduras. To this end, the Israeli company Archimedes Group to distribute such materials created dozens of sites and fake accounts. Part of the campaign also targeted Venezuela, accusing them of organizing protests in the streets of Honduras, because the nation is a member of the Lima Group, which is worried about Venezuela’s fate.
The Archimedes Group had previously gained attention when attempting to influence the domestic affairs of other countries, like when they tried to influence the societies of African, Latin American and South Asian nations.
Active Middle East
In late July 2019, DFRLab uncovered a network of twitter accounts created and coordinated by the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar and the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, targeting Qatar. The accounts setup by the Libyan National Army attacked Qatar, consequently helping to advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates. The campaign used centrally coordinated and mutually supportive twitter accounts.
On August 1, 2019, Facebook closed more than three hundred fake accounts and sites related to the Saudi Arabian government that were spreading anti-Turkish, Qatari and Iranian messages among Arabic language audiences. Sites with hundreds of thousands of followers cross sharing postings and original material from different environments, stood out because of visual and textual similarities.
In August 2019, Facebook closed several hundred fake accounts and sites of Egyptian based New Wave and the united Arab Emirates-based NeWave, that were promoting messages against Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.
An analysis of the content also showed that most of the topics were related to the political interests of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt or Bahrain. The owners of the closed accounts and sites were private companies linked only by the promotional messages. They have no direct relationship with each other or with any government.
Attempts in Thailand
In July 2019, twenty-two accounts and sites related to the Thailand government were closed on Facebook and Instagram. They were spreading anti-Western messages, trying to undermine US-China relations as well as trying to influence Thai democracy activists and politicians. The network consisted of several Facebook sites and an online publication that cross-shared material.
The examples above are how countries try to influence the information space and society of other nations.
In June, however, DFRLab wrote about a social media India-Pakistan „national contest“, in which people without any prominent coordination tried to have their messages dominate the information about the 2019 terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. The cause for the confrontation is the lack of clarity over who was the organizer of the terrorist attack, with both sides blaming the other. Terrorist organizations benefit from this because their aim is to create conflict between societies.
The examples highlighted are one part of what is happening and the prerequisite for their occurrence is language, which allows social media to influence the society of another country. It is quite difficult for nations with different languages to carry out influencing campaigns in the social media space of another country and this has for example prevented Russia from becoming more active in Estonian social media.
Photos: Excepts from Facebook