Facebook finds disinformation and hacking campaigns targeting Ukraine : NPR


A photograph of the META brand is seen on a pill display screen in Moscow on Nov. 11, 2021.

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP through Getty Pictures


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KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP through Getty Pictures


A photograph of the META brand is seen on a pill display screen in Moscow on Nov. 11, 2021.

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP through Getty Pictures

Fb dad or mum firm Meta says it has uncovered Russian efforts to undermine belief within the Ukrainian authorities and a separate try to hack Ukrainian navy officers and journalists utilizing its platform.

The 2 separate campaigns have been each small in scale and caught within the early phases, the corporate mentioned.

“There’s been plenty of hypothesis and curiosity on whether or not there are covert affect operations focusing on public debate in Ukraine and to what diploma we’re seeing cyber hacking teams focusing on people in Ukraine,” mentioned Nathaniel Gleicher, Meta’s head of safety coverage. “It is a case the place we’re seeing each of these issues.”

The primary marketing campaign concerned a community of about 40 accounts, pages and teams on Fb and Instagram, operated in Russia and Ukraine. They used faux personas, together with computer-generated profile footage, to masquerade as unbiased information retailers and posted claims about Ukraine being a failed state.

The main target of the efforts gave the impression to be driving site visitors to the community’s personal web sites, Meta mentioned, and the community posted throughout social media, together with on Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and Russian social networks VK and Odnoklassniki. On Fb and Instagram, it accrued fewer than 5,000 followers throughout Fb and Instagram. The corporate didn’t say how many individuals interacted with or noticed its posts.

“It is a signal that whereas these actors try to run these kinds of affect operations, they’re getting caught sooner they usually’re not reaching the audiences that they’d have reached even a number of years in the past,” Gleicher mentioned.

Meta mentioned it is eliminated the accounts and blocked the related web sites. The corporate says it discovered hyperlinks to a different community of pretend accounts it eliminated in 2020 that concerned individuals in Russia and the Donbas area of Ukraine in addition to two Crimean media organizations now sanctioned by the U.S. authorities.

Individually, Meta mentioned it has seen a surge in hacking makes an attempt of Ukrainians in current days. It tied some to a Belarusian-connected effort identified in cybersecurity circles as “Ghostwriter,” which has beforehand been blamed for cyberattacks in different European international locations.

Meta says Ghostwriter has been attempting to hack the accounts of high-profile Ukrainians, together with navy officers, journalists and public figures, though it did not determine any people.

The hackers attempt to break into targets’ e-mail and social media accounts and submit disinformation. “We detected makes an attempt to focus on individuals on Fb and submit YouTube movies portraying Ukrainian troops as weak and surrendering to Russia, together with a video claiming to point out Ukrainian troopers surrendering,” mentioned David Agranovich, Meta’s director of risk disruption.

Gleicher mentioned the corporate has alerted the “handful” of Ukrainians who’ve been focused lately and is obstructing the domains the hackers use of their phishing makes an attempt.

Russia has lengthy used faux accounts and bots to unfold disinformation on social media, together with throughout its 2014 marketing campaign to annex Crimea and within the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Since then, Fb and different tech firms have been faster to root out this sort of inauthentic habits, says Nina Jankowicz, a fellow on the Wilson Heart who research disinformation.

On the identical time, Russia’s efforts to unfold disinformation have develop into extra overt, she mentioned, by means of official authorities communications and pro-Kremlin state media protection that will get “repackaged on platforms like TikTok and Instagram and YouTube.”

“It is much less about faux identities, even ones which might be convincing, and extra about fully staged occasions which might be presupposed to create the pretext to justify this conflict,” she mentioned.

Fb, together with Google, has taken some steps in current days to limit Russian state media. Each firms are barring these retailers from getting cash from promoting on their platform and have blocked them fully in Ukraine, on the request of the Ukrainian authorities. These strikes have angered the Russian authorities, which has accused the businesses of censorship and mentioned it could restrict entry to Fb within the nation.

Jankowicz says that reveals how the problem for social media firms is evolving.

“Takedowns [of fake accounts] solely go thus far,” she mentioned. “We additionally want to consider the broader image: how will we get info to Ukrainians who want it proper now? How will we ensure that Russians are listening to the reality? How will we ensure that this battle is being coated and mentioned in a means that’s reflective of actuality?”

Editor’s word: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content material.

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