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Washington Post - September 4, 2020

"While most of these operations have been tied to firms outside of the U.S., the CLS takedown is evidence that Americans are also players in disinformation operations targeting other countries."

When Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the nation’s legitimate president in January 2019, an Instagram account, @FrenteLibreVzla, posted a video declaring him a “new leader” who would bring freedom to the embattled nation, according to a research report published Friday.

Those watching the video had no way of knowing the account was based not in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, but downtown Washington, managed by a strategic communications firm with clients across Latin America.

The firm, CLS Strategies, this week became the latest communications company to be chastised by Facebook for using fake accounts — including on Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary — to secretly manipulate politics in another country, in violation of Facebook’s prohibition on foreign interference.

CLS Strategies said Friday that it had launched an internal investigation in conjunction with an outside law firm and put the head of its Latin American practice on administrative leave. But it disputed that its activities amount to foreign interference, saying the clients it was representing were located in the affected countries.

"...The Stanford report described the trend of hiring a public relations or marketing firm to conduct a disinformation operation as increasingly common, noting that Facebook has conducted takedowns against communications firms in Israel, Canada, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates — and now, the United States — for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior."

Read full report at Washington Post