Meta: Russian Invasion Drives More Disinformation Online | Government and politics
By DAVID KLEPPER – Associated Press
Russian-aligned hackers broke into the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military officers and were working to upload videos of defeated and surrendering Ukrainian soldiers when the plot was cut short, according to a Meta report that details a disturbing increase in misinformation on social media. year.
Report from owner of Facebook and Instagram found increase in content related to The Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as an increase in domestic disinformation and propaganda in countries around the world, suggesting that tactics pioneered by foreign intelligence agencies are now being used more widely.
“While much of the public attention in recent years has focused on foreign interference, domestic threats are on the rise around the world,” said Nick Clegg, Meta’s president for global affairs and former British Deputy Prime Minister.
Russia and its allies are major players, according to the report, with Kremlin-linked groups spreading misinformation about its invasion of Ukraine while amplifying pro-Russian conspiracy theories at home.
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Meta traced the effort to take over the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military leaders to a hacker organization known as Ghostwriter, which to research has linked to Belarus, a Russian ally. Ghostwriter has a history of spreading NATO-critical content and has also attempted to hack into email accounts.
“It’s a proven thing,” said Ben Read, director of cyber espionage analytics at Mandiant, a major US cybersecurity firm that has tracked Ghostwriter’s activities for years. Last year, Mandiant said digital clues suggested the hackers were based in Belarus, although EU officials had previously blamed Russia.
Belarus and Russia did not respond to the claims.
Meta described other disinformation campaigns related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including one involving dozens of fake accounts spreading anti-Ukrainian rhetoric. Another network filed thousands of bogus complaints against Ukrainian Facebook users in an attempt to get them kicked out of the platform. This network hid its activities in a Facebook group supposedly dedicated to cooking.
In Russia, the Kremlin has blocked hundreds of news sources and websites, including Facebook and Twitter, and threatened jail time for anyone who tries to report on the war. Instead of accurate journalism, the state-controlled media spread discredited conspiracy theories about Ukrainian Nazis or secret US bioweapons labs.
Meta and other big tech companies have responded suppressing or restricting Russian public media, targeting disinformation networks and labeling content they do not remove. Twitter announced this week that it would also label Belarusian state-controlled media.
The prevalence of Russian-related propaganda and disinformation on social media shows that a more aggressive response is needed, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a London-based nonprofit that supports greater regulation of social media. A study by the group found numerous Facebook mentions of the discredited Russian bioweapons conspiracy theory.
“Despite actions against state broadcasters under enormous pressure, Meta is failing severely to contain major disinformation narratives that benefit Putin’s regime,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the center.
Meta said it will be rolling out additional policies in the coming weeks and months to ensure it stays ahead of groups seeking to exploit its platforms. Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, noted that groups seeking to spread disinformation and propaganda are also adapting their tactics.
“We would expect them to come back,” Gleicher said.
Klepper reported from Providence, Rhode Island.
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