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The US government is no longer briefing Meta about foreign influence campaigns

Officials have "paused" tips to Meta, eliminating a key source of information about potential threats

SOPA Images via Getty Images

As Meta gears up for the 2024 election, the company is grappling with a new challenge that could slow its efforts to combat foreign attempts at election interference. US government agencies have stopped sharing information with the company’s security researchers about covert influence operations on its platform.

Meta says that as of July, the government has “paused” briefings related to foreign election interference, eliminating a key source of information for the company. During a call with reporters, Meta’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher, declined to speculate on the government’s motivations, but the timing lines up with a court order earlier this year that restricted the Biden Administration’s contacts with social media firms.

The order, the result of two states’ attempts to limit platforms' ability to remove misinformation, is currently suspended while the Supreme Court considers the case. But government agencies, like CISA (the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency) and the FBI, have apparently opted to keep the “pause” in place.

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Gleicher noted that government contacts aren’t Meta’s only source of information, and that the company continues to work with industry researchers and other civil society groups. But he acknowledged that government officials can be best-placed to advise certain kinds of threats, like those that are coordinated on other platforms. “We have seen that particularly-sophisticated threat actors, like nation states, engaged in foreign interference… there are times when government has the capability to identify these campaigns that other players may not,” he said.

Meta’s researchers regularly share details about networks of fake accounts it catches boosting foreign propaganda and conducting other kinds of influence campaigns, what the company calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior” or CIB. And while most of its takedowns don’t come as a result of government tips, the company has relied on them in detecting CIB targeting US politics. Meta acted on three separate FBI tips about fake accounts from Russia, Iran and Mexico ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Law enforcement officials have also expressed concern about the lack of coordination with social media platforms. The FBI previously told the House Judiciary Committee that it had “discovered foreign influence campaigns on social media platforms but in some cases did not inform the companies about them because they were hamstrung by the new legal oversight,” NBC News reported, citing congressional sources.

Meta’s latest comments are the first time the company has publicly confirmed that it is no longer receiving tips about election interference. The disclosure comes as the company ramps up its efforts to prepare for multiple elections in 2024, and the inevitable attempts to manipulate political conversations on Facebook. The company said in its latest report on CIB that China is now the third-most common source of coordinated inauthentic behavior on its platform, behind Russia and Iran.