Meta just accused the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) of running a political troll farm to corrupt or manipulate public discourse!
Here is what you need to know!
Meta Accuses PDRM Of Running Political Troll Farm!
On 4 August 2022, Meta issued the Adversarial Threat Report for the Second Quarter of 2022. In that report, they directly named the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) as being responsible for a troll farm designed to “corrupt or manipulate public discourse“.
Here were the key findings that the Meta team revealed about the individuals behind the PDRM troll farm :
- They were active on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.
- They posted memes in Malay, in support of the current government coalition
- They posted claims of corruption amongst the current government coalition’s critics
- They created Facebook Pages that posed as independent news entities, and promoted police while criticising the opposition.
- Their posting activity were greatest during weekdays, taking breaks for lunch.
- Their fake accounts were under-developed, and some of them used stolen profile photos.
The troll farm was initially suspected to have originated in China by researchers at Clemson University in South Caroline. But when the Meta team investigated it, they found links to the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM).
The Meta team also revealed that the PDRM troll farm spent about $6,000 (~RM26,750) in Facebook and Instagram ads, paid for primarily in Malaysian Ringgit.
They also shared how successful the PDRM troll farm was in garnering followers on Facebook and Instagram :
- Facebook Pages : About 427,000 accounts
- Facebook Groups : About 4,000 accounts
- Instagram Accounts : About 15,000 accounts
As a result of their investigation, Meta removed 595 Facebook accounts, 180 Pages, 11 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts that were linked to this PDRM troll farm, for violating their police against “coordinated inauthentic behavior“.
What Is Inauthentic Behavior?
Inauthentic behaviour (IB) as an effort to mislead people or Facebook about about the popularity of content, the purpose of a community (i.e. Groups, Pages, Events) or the identity of the people behind it. It is primarily centered around amplifying and increasing the distribution of content, and is often (but not exclusively) financially motivated.
IB operators typically focus on quantity rather than the quality of engagement. For example, they may use large numbers of low-sophistication fake accounts to mass-post or like their content — be it commercial, social or political. They often use tactics similar to other large-scale online activities, like spam.
This behavior pattern distinguishes IB from Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (CIB) where operators invest in mimicking human social activity as closely as possible.
PDRM Denies Meta Accusations Of Running Political Troll Farm!
On 6 August 2022, PDRM issued a short notice (with my English translation) stating that it takes Meta’s allegations seriously, denies them, and is currently gathering information about those allegations.
Penafian PDRM Atas Dakwaan Syarikat Meta Platforms Incorporated
Police Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) memandang serius laporan pihak syarikat Meta Platforms Incorporated yang mendakwa terdapat akaun-akaun palsu di media sosial yang “mempunyai hubungan dengan PDRM”.
PDRM menafikan dakwaan tersebut dan sedang mengampul maklumat lanjut mengenainya.
PDRM Denies Allegations By Meta Platforms Incorporated
The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) is taking seriously the report by Meta Platforms Incorporated which claimed that there are fake social media account “with ties to PDRM”.
PDRM denies these allegations and is gathering more information about it.
PDRM Troll Farm : Is That Even Legal?!
The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) enforces the laws of the country, including the Internet. In fact, they have a Cyber & Multimedia Criminal Investigation Unit under the Commercial Crime Investigation Department.
The PDRM works together with the National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) to tackle cybersecurity threats, and these would include malicious influence campaigns.
All the more reason why it is both perplexing and troubling that Malaysia’s national police force has been linked to a troll farm designed to promote the current government coalition, while denigrating the opposition.
These are specifically the cybercrimes that NACSA should be looking out for, and the PDRM should be assisting them in arresting anyone in Malaysia who participated in such activities.
The PDRM will no doubt be under tremendous pressure to explain / refute Meta’s allegations.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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