Meta disables Russian propaganda network targeting Europe - worldsnews
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Meta disables Russian propaganda network targeting Europe

According to Meta on Tuesday, a vast misinformation network with its roots in Russia attempted to promote Kremlin talking points regarding the invasion of Ukraine using hundreds of phony social media accounts and dozens of fake news websites.

The business, which owns Facebook and Instagram, claimed to have discovered and stopped the operation before it could amass a sizable following. Facebook nonetheless claimed that it was the biggest and most intricate Russian propaganda operation it has discovered since the invasion started.

More than 60 websites, including The Guardian newspaper in the UK and Der Spiegel in Germany, were used in the operation, all of which were designed to look like reputable news websites. The bogus websites, however, linked to Russian misinformation and propaganda about Ukraine rather than the news that those sources really covered. The misinformation was sent to audiences in Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine via more than 1,600 fictitious Facebook pages.

The results emphasized both the danger that misinformation continues to pose and the promise made by social media firms to monitor their websites.

One of the false news items, titled "Video: False Staging in Bucha Revealed!" accused Ukraine of ordering the killing of hundreds of Ukrainians in a Russian-occupied town.

On platforms including Facebook and Instagram, as well as Telegram and Twitter, links to the false news articles and other pro-Russian messages and videos were subsequently disseminated via the bogus social media accounts. The network was operating all summer long.

According to David Agranovich, head of threat disruption at Meta, "the operation's material was occasionally enhanced by the official Facebook accounts of Russian embassies in Europe and Asia." Since the start of the war in Ukraine earlier this year, "I believe this is arguably the largest and most intricate Russian-origin effort that we've destroyed."

Investigative journalists in Germany were the first to become aware of the network's operations. When Meta first started looking into the matter, it discovered that Facebook's automatic algorithms had already eliminated a large number of the fraudulent accounts. When the network's Facebook pages were shut earlier this year, thousands of people were following them.

The network couldn't be immediately linked to the Russian government, according to researchers. The operation, according to Agranovich, used some advanced strategies, including the use of different languages and skillfully designed impostor websites, and he emphasized the role performed by Russian officials.

The Kremlin has utilized internet misinformation and conspiracy theories from the start of the conflict in February in an effort to undermine international support for Ukraine. Russian government-affiliated organizations have claimed that Ukraine staged assaults, blamed the conflict on unfounded claims that the United States was developing bioweapons, and painted Ukrainian refugees as violent criminals and rapists.

The Kremlin's propaganda and misinformation have been resisted by social media platforms and European governments only to see Russia change its strategy.

The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., was contacted over Meta's recent activities, but did not respond right away.

The Menlo Park, California-based Meta Platforms Inc.'s researchers also discovered a much smaller network that had its roots in China and tried to promote polarizing political information in the United States.

With some postings obtaining only one engagement, the operation barely reached a small U.S. audience. The postings also made some basic English language errors and a tendency of posting during Chinese business hours, which revealed they weren't American.

Despite being ineffectual, the network is noteworthy since Meta recognized it as the first to have sent political messages to Americans in advance of this year's midterm elections. Despite without endorsing any one party, the Chinese messages appeared to be trying to create division.

Ben Nimmo, who oversees global threat intelligence for Meta, said that even though the Chinese misinformation campaign failed, it was significant because it represented a change in strategy.