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 related to the war in Ukraine. In his quarterly report on “hostile operations” Conducted by states or private actors on its platforms, the group describes a series of attempts carried out by the Belarusian KGB and several unidentified groups associated with Russia.

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In particular, the company explains that a group associated with the Belarusian KGB, whose activities had already been discovered in the past, did it again by setting up fake pages, in Polish and English, encouraging Poles to to protest 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 calling on Ukrainian soldiers to surrender; the accounts have been deleted and the broadcasting of these videos has been blocked.

Another set of disinformation operations, according to Meta, involves former employees of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a branch of Russia’s intelligence services that specializes in social network disinformation and is very active, especially during the 2016 US presidential election. increasingly, these operations, more complex than in the past, were based on fake accounts on various social networks, as well as on special sites.

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

“In January and February 2022, their site published articles about police brutality in Western countries, placing responsibility for the Russian attack on NATO and accusing the Ukrainian military of deliberately targeting civilians. †

Lots of scams

Another network, already identified by Meta in 2020 and targeting internet users in eastern Ukraine, was also blocked when it tried to create new pages, the company explains. About 50 pages were also removed for coordinating to offensively flag Russian-critical Facebook pages in the hopes that they would be removed. These accounts used a Facebook group masquerading as a cooking recipe sharing group to point out their goals.

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Meta also notes that many scammers use the war in Ukraine to collect subscribers or “likes”. “We know that at first glance these activities resemble state influence operations”writes Meta, but most of the suspicious pages, upon investigation, are “run by scammers who use social and political themes as a form of clickbait”† Meta has deleted several hundred pages in the past three months regarding state advocacy operations, but the main thing is: “several tens of thousands” accounts managed by charlatans.

Meta also announces that it has discovered and blocked a small-scale operation primarily targeting English-speaking African countries, which aimed to “persuading 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 related to other countries or themes, including a major operation attributed to Iran by the company.

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