All Cyber News Blogs August 4, 2022

Mind Farce

An Investigation into an Inauthentic Facebook and Instagram Network Linked to an Israeli Public Relations Firm
A graphic depiction of a face falling towards the ground on a red background overlayed with a black satellite dish and the word "takedown".

On August 4, 2022, Meta announced the removal of a network of Facebook and Instagram accounts that posted about Palestinian, Angolan, and Nigerian politics. This report groups findings by these three topical clusters, but we note that Meta found links between the entire network and one entity: Mind Force, an Israeli public relations firm, and there is no evidence that these were distinct operational clusters.  The network included 42 Pages, nine groups, 259 profiles, and 107 Instagram accounts. Meta suspended the network not due to the content of the posts, but rather for coordinated inauthentic behavior. Meta shared a portion of this network’s activity with the Stanford Internet Observatory on June 13, 2022.

Key takeaways: 

  • The Palestinian cluster of accounts criticized the Hamas government for corruption and damaging Gaza's economy. It also pushed the claim that Iran was the last remaining ally of the Palestinians.
  • The Angolan cluster of accounts promoted Angola's culture and economic prospects to the English-speaking world, praised the ruling MPLA party and criticized the right-wing opposition party, UNITA. Some of the content produced by this cluster was plagiarized from established Angolan news outlets.
  • The Nigerian cluster of accounts existed to support the candidacy of presidential aspirant Kingsley Moghalu, who has since withdrawn from the race.
  • A LinkedIn account for an individual who says he is a Mind Force employee noted that he was a "Campaign Manager to Angolan Government." While it is increasingly common for governments to outsource their disinformation campaigns to digital marketing firms, this type of link is rarely so explicitly visible.
  • Both the Nigerian and Angolan clusters had similar evidence of inauthentic followers and engagement. Both clusters, for example, had Pages with large follower counts relative to their creation date and volume of post interactions, along with engagement from accounts that appeared to be fake. Meta says that the "operation appeared to have leveraged fake engagement services to buy likes."
  • A low-follower but novel set of accounts within the Palestinian cluster linked out to a Google Form meant to elicit anonymous confessions from Gaza residents, which were then shared on the accounts. By the time Meta suspended this network, the only supposed confessions posted were apolitical. It seems possible, however, that the ultimate purpose was to elicit (or pretend to elicit) political complaints.

 

A Mind Force employee's LinkedIn profile. Remarkably, the employe explicitly states that his client is the government of Angola.
A Mind Force employee's LinkedIn profile. Remarkably, the employe explicitly states that his client is the government of Angola.


 

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