Meta: The Russian invasion is spreading more propaganda online

Hackers allied with Russia broke into the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military officers and were working to upload videos of defeated and surrendered Ukrainian soldiers when, according to a report by Meta, the conspiracy was interrupted, detailing a disturbing rise in social media disinformation. The year.

The Facebook and Instagram owner’s report showed an increase in domestic propaganda and propaganda-related content in countries around the world, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, suggesting that the strategy pioneered by foreign intelligence agencies is now more widely used. is being used from .

“While most of the public’s attention in recent years has focused on foreign interference, domestic threats are increasing globally,” said Nick Clegg, META’s president of global affairs and former British deputy prime minister.

According to the report, Russia and its allies are the key players, with Kremlin-linked groups spreading misinformation about their invasion of Ukraine, while pro-Russians at home are spreading conspiracy theories.

Meta traces an attempt to back the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military leaders to a shady hacker organization known as Ghostwriters, which previous research has linked to Belarus, a Russian ally. Ghostwriters have a history of spreading material critical of NATO, and have also attempted to hack email accounts.

“It’s a tried-and-true thing they do,” said Ben Reed, director of cyber espionage analysis at Mandient, a leading US cybersecurity firm that has tracked Ghostwriters’ activities for years. Last year Mandiant said digital leads showed the hackers were based in Belarus, although EU officials have previously blamed Russia.

Belarus and Russia have not responded to the claims.

Meta outlined other propaganda campaigns linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including dozens of fake accounts that spread anti-Ukrainian rhetoric. Another network filed thousands of fake complaints about Ukrainian Facebook users asking them to be removed from the platform. That network hid its activities in a Facebook group supposedly dedicated to cooking.

Within Russia, the Kremlin has blocked hundreds of news sources and websites, including Facebook and Twitter, and threatened jail time for anyone trying to report on the war. In place of accurate journalism, state-controlled media have thrown out discredited conspiracy theories about Ukrainian Nazis or secret US bio-weapons laboratories.

Meta and other big tech companies haven’t taken it down by removing or banning Russian state-run media, targeting misinformation networks, and labeling the content. Twitter announced this week that it would also label Belarus state-controlled media.

The prevalence of Russian-linked propaganda and disinformation on social media suggests a more aggressive response is needed, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a London-based nonprofit that supports greater social media regulation. A study by the group found several Facebook mentions of Russia’s discredited bio-weapon conspiracy theory.

“Despite taking action against state channels under enormous pressure, META has failed miserably to contain major misinformation that benefits Putin’s regime,” the Centre’s CEO Imran Ahmed said.

Meta said it will formulate additional policies in the coming weeks and months to ensure it stays ahead of groups taking advantage of its platform. META’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said that propaganda and propaganda groups are adopting their own strategy.

“We’ll hope they keep coming back,” Gleicher said.


Klepper reported from Providence, Rhode Island.

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