In May, several French and German influencers received a strange proposal on social media with False information.
A London liaison officer wanted to pay them to promote messages on behalf of a client. A glossy three-page False information document describes what to say and on what platforms to say it. Some recipients posted screenshots of the offer. Exposed, Fazze deleted his social media accounts. In the same week, Brazilian and Indian influencers released videos reproducing Fazze’s writings to hundreds of thousands of viewers.
The plan appears to be part of a secret industry that US analysts and officials say is exploding in size: disinformation rental. Private companies, engaged in traditional marketing and the dark world of geopolitically influenced operations, are selling services formerly managed mainly by intelligence agencies.
They sow discord, meddle in elections, sow false stories and promote viral conspiracies, especially on social media. And they offer customers something valuable. Recently, similar campaigns have been found to promote the Indian ruling party, Egyptian foreign policy goals, and political figures in Bolivia and Venezuela.
An ideologically promiscuous Ukrainian adventure spurred several rival political parties.
In the Central African Republic, two separate operations flooded social media with a pro-French and pro-Russian False information duel. Both forces compete for influence in the country.
A wave of seemingly organic anti-US positions in Iraq was uncovered after a liaison officer was separately accused of undermining the government’s vote in Israel.
Most follow dead companies whose legal services resemble that of a low-income marketer or an email spammer with False information.
Disguised as news sites and citizens’ groups, they promoted Taiwan’s reunification with mainland China and downplayed protesters in Hong Kong. The report found links between the pages and a startup in Malaysia that offered Internet users Singapore dollars to promote the content.