Facebook Inc. has taken down a network of China-based accounts being used to spread malware meant to spy on journalists and dissidents in the overseas Uyghur Muslim community, the company said on Wednesday.
The sophisticated effort, which the company said was tied to a group of Chinese hackers, included setting up fake news sites and compromising real ones to infect the devices of a small number of people. The hackers also placed malware-laden apps—including Uyghur language keyboards and prayer apps—in third-party Android app stores.
The Uyghurs have been targeted for mass detention by the Chinese government and some nations, including the U.S., have labeled the yearslong crackdown against them a genocide.
China is an active player in digital espionage, national security experts have said, and Facebook in recent years has stepped up efforts to prevent foreign manipulation and abuse of its platform.
The company has announced takedowns of foreign disinformation and covert influence operations for years, but has more recently begun exposing hacking campaigns that use Facebook accounts. In December, the company revealed cyber-espionage efforts linked to entities in Vietnam and Bangladesh.