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how the war between ukraine and russia is exported to facebook

Parallel to the ground war between Ukraine and Russia, it’s a real information war going on online, and Facebook is one of many battlegrounds. In case of her quarterly report On the threats it fended off, Meta (Facebook’s parent company) described certain maneuvers that resulted from the conflict that hit its main social network.

Also on Facebook, Russia and its allies, known for their ability to manipulate public opinion, are taking on the role of attacker, between espionage attempts, disinformation and hacking.

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Block wrong information

To recognize destabilization operations, the social network strives to detect “inauthentic coordinated behavior”, one of the biggest challenges of its moderation. Specifically, the platform tries to distinguish the opinion movements generated by its users from those artificially magnified by robots, hacked accounts or advertisements. So it bans what it calls “networking”, sets of dozens of highly followed accounts and pages that work in a coordinated way.

For example, on February 24, the day of the Russian invasion, Facebook dismantled an influence operation initiated by Belarusian intelligence. The latter spread false information in Polish and English, claiming that Ukrainian troops surrendered without a fight and that the leaders had fled the country. The aim: to undermine the morale of Ukraine’s supporters and support the Russian propaganda according to which Ukraine was waiting for its “liberation” by Russian troops. Meta also indicates that it has blocked attempts to create an account by members of theInternet Research Office (IRA), the powerful Russian propaganda channel, which had already banned them after previous attempts in 2020 and 2021.

Latest disinformation tool dismantled by Meta in the last quarter: a massive reporting network. More than 200 accounts were coordinated to artificially flag thousands of war-related posts misrepresenting Russia and have Facebook removed. †Certainly in an effort to evade detection tools, the people behind this massive reporting activity coordinated their efforts on a “cooking” themed group, which numbered 50 members when we dismantled it.The platform specifies. The challenge for the social network here is not to let these maneuvers catch its automatic moderation tools.

Hack Attempts

Who in the cyber world says involvement of the state, says involvement of one or more APTs (advanced persistent threats† These hacker divisions, more or less closely tied to a state, have geopolitical goals (theft or destruction of documents, espionage, manipulation), with cybercriminals pursuing financial interests.

Facebook thus identified the activity of Ghost Writerbound by reports from the company Mandiant to the Belarusian and Russian governments. The group is used to targeting countries bordering Russia, such as Poland, and always acts with the aim of instilling mistrust of NATO. His modus operandi consists of compromising email addresses in order to access the social networks associated with them. It focuses on the defense, energy, telecom and media sectors. On February 27, Meta identified Ghostwriter’s target of Ukrainian public figures in an attempt to post a fake YouTube video on their social media showing Ukrainian soldiers waving the white flag. †We have blocked the sharing of these videosthe platform says.

If the social network easily draws the line of moderation on this abusive behavior, it becomes much more sensitive to diplomatic issues. For example Russian official accounts -like that of the French embassy– continue to deny the massacre by their army of Ukrainian civilians the town of Boutcha, despite mounting evidence, without their messages being limited. In addition, in order to continue checking its version of the facts, the Russian government has banned Facebook and Instagram from his internet.