Facebook removes Russian disinformation network spreading false information about war in Ukraine

Facebook says it has dismantled a disinformation network made up of individuals and sites spreading false information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The social network’s parent company, Meta, said the network was “relatively small”, consisting of around 40 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram. It’s unclear how long ago the group started operating, but Meta says it has garnered less than 4,000 followers on Facebook and less than 500 followers on Instagram.

“It’s a sign that while these actors are trying to do these kinds of influence operations, they’re getting caught sooner and not reaching the audiences they would have reached just a few years ago,” he said. said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Meta. security policy, says NPR.

The network was operated by individuals in Russia and Ukraine who created fake profiles on several social networks (including YouTube, VK and Telegram, as well as Meta’s own platforms) in order to appear real to investigators. They used AI-generated headshots as profile images and posed as “editors, a former aeronautical engineer, and an author of a scientific publication on hydrography.”

According to Meta, the group “run a handful of websites posing as independent news outlets, publishing claims that the West is betraying Ukraine and Ukraine is a failed state.” The company says it found links between this network and another operation it took down in April 2020.

This earlier group shared and promoted articles from media organizations that are now sanctioned by the United States. Reports on the sites currently claim that Ukrainian border guards have welcomed Russian troops with open arms; that the Ukrainian army uses civilians as human shields; and the deployment of UN-banned phosphorus munitions against the Russians. None of the substance of these stories is verified by media outlets outside of Russia.

In addition to the disinformation network, Meta says the accounts of Ukrainian military officials and public figures are being targeted. A threat actor known as the Ghostwriter, who has been followed by the security community and has ties to Russia’s ally Belarus, attempted to hack into accounts and post “YouTube videos depicting Ukrainian troops as weak and surrendering to Russia”.

Meta says it alerted targeted users, blocked domains used in Ghostwriter phishing attacks (intended to steal password credentials), and took other unknown steps to “secure accounts.”

“There has been a lot of speculation and interest as to whether there are covert influence operations targeting public debate in Ukraine and to what extent we see cyber-hacking groups targeting individuals in Ukraine,” Meta said. Gleicher. NPR. “This is a case where we see both of those things.”

Twitter says it has also been busy taking down disinformation networks linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The company said BNC News that he banned more than a dozen accounts sharing links to a propaganda site called Ukraine Today.

“On February 27, we permanently suspended more than a dozen accounts and blocked several links from being shared in violation of our platform manipulation and spam policy. Our investigation is ongoing; however, our initial findings indicate that the accounts and links originated from Russia and attempted to disrupt public conversation around the ongoing conflict in Ukraine,” a Twitter spokesperson said. BNC News.


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