Meta Says It Disabled 1,600 Facebook Accounts Spreading Russian Disinformation – Orange County Register

A sprawling disinformation network originating in Russia tried to use hundreds of fake social media accounts and dozens of bogus news websites to spread Kremlin talks about invading Ukraine, Meta revealed on Tuesday.

The company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it identified and disabled the operation before it could garner a large audience. Nonetheless, Facebook said it was the largest and most complex Russian propaganda move it had found since the invasion began.

The operation involved more than 60 websites created to mimic legitimate news sites, including the British newspaper The Guardian and the German Spiegel. Instead of the actual news reported by these outlets, the fake sites contained links to Russian propaganda and disinformation about Ukraine. More than 1,600 fake Facebook accounts were used to spread the propaganda to audiences in Germany, Italy, France, the UK and Ukraine.

The findings underscored both the promise of social media companies to monitor their websites and the danger that disinformation continues to pose.

“Video: Fake staging exposed in Bucha!” claimed one of the fake news stories, blaming Ukraine for the slaughter of hundreds of Ukrainians in a Russian-held city.

The fake social media accounts were then used to spread links to the fake news and other pro-Russian posts and videos on Facebook and Instagram, as well as platforms like Telegram and Twitter. The network was active throughout the summer.

“On a few occasions, the content of the operation was reinforced through the official Facebook pages of Russian embassies in Europe and Asia,” said David Agranovich, Meta’s director of threat disruption. “I think this is probably the largest and most complex Russian-origin operation we have disrupted since the war in Ukraine began earlier this year.”

The activities of the network were first noticed by investigative reporters in Germany. When Meta began its investigation, it found that many of the fake accounts had already been removed by Facebook’s automated systems. Thousands of people followed the network’s Facebook pages when they were deactivated earlier this year.

The researchers said they could not directly attribute the network to the Russian government. But noting the role played by Russian diplomats, Agranovich said the operation relied on some sophisticated tactics, including the use of multiple languages ​​and carefully constructed scammer websites.

Since the war began in February, the Kremlin has used online disinformation and conspiracy theories to undermine international support for Ukraine. Groups linked to the Russian government have accused Ukraine of orchestrating attacks, blamed the war on unfounded claims of US bioweapons development and portrayed Ukrainian refugees as criminals and rapists.

Social media platforms and European governments have tried to quash the Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation, only to see Russia change tactics.

A message sent to the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, requesting a response to Meta’s recent actions was not immediately answered. Meta Says It Disabled 1,600 Facebook Accounts Spreading Russian Disinformation – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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