several Russian and Belarusian influence operations blocked by Facebook


Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp) announced that it had dismantled several Russian and Belarusian disinformation or hacking operations linked to the war in Ukraine. In its quarterly report on “hostile operations” carried out by states or private actors on its platforms, the group details a series of attempts carried out by the Belarusian KGB and several unidentified groups, linked to Russia.

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The company explains in particular that a group linked to the Belarusian KGB, whose operations had already been detected in the past, did it again by setting up fake pages, in Polish and English, which encouraged Poles to demonstrate against their government. . Meta also identified several hacking attempts, attributed to the Belarusian group Ghostwriter, aimed at taking over the Facebook accounts of Ukrainian military personnel. In some cases, the hacked profiles have been used by Ghostwriter to post videos urging Ukrainian soldiers to surrender; the accounts have been deleted and the broadcast of these videos has been blocked.

Another series of disinformation operations is linked, according to Meta, to former employees of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a branch of the Russian intelligence services specialized in disinformation on social networks and very active, especially during of the 2016 US presidential election. As is increasingly the case, these operations, more complex than in the past, relied on fake accounts on several social networks, but also dedicated sites.

“This activity seems to have started last year and was centered on a site posing as an NGO defending human rights in the West”, writes Meta. On several occasions, this group tried to create Facebook pages, without success, writes the company, adding:

“In January and February 2022, their site published articles on police violence in Western countries, attributing responsibility for the Russian attack to NATO, and accusing the Ukrainian army of deliberately targeting civilians. »

Many scams

Another network, already identified by Meta in 2020 and mainly targeting Internet users in eastern Ukraine, was also blocked when it tried to create new pages, the company explains. About 50 pages were also taken down because they coordinated to abusively flag Russian-critical Facebook pages, hoping to have them taken down. These accounts used, to designate their targets, a Facebook group pretending to be a group for exchanging cooking recipes.

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Meta also notes that many scammers are using the war in Ukraine to try to accumulate subscribers or “likes”. “We know that at first glance these activities may look like state influence operations”writes Meta, but the bulk of suspicious pages are, upon examination, “run by scammers who use societal and political themes as a form of clickbait”. Meta has taken down a few hundred pages related to state influence operations in the past three months, but most importantly “several tens of thousands” accounts operated by charlatans.

Meta also announces that it has discovered and blocked a small-scale operation, mainly targeting English-speaking African countries, which aimed to “convince media to publish articles on African politics, including criticism of French influence in Africa”. The company attributes responsibility for this operation to Russia. Finally, in its report, Meta describes several influence operations linked to other countries or themes, including a major operation attributed by the company to Iran.

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