The Meta Dismantled an Ineffective Russian Propaganda Operation

In total, the social media giant deleted more than 1,000 Instagram accounts and 45 Facebook accounts in early April. (Photo: 123RF)

San Francisco. An organization close to Moscow ran a social media influencer campaign in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine using “troll farms” and hackneyed tactics, Meta reported. [Facebook, Instagram] Thursday.

“It looked like a step backwards,” Ben Nimmo, one of the California group’s security managers, told AFP. “But they weren’t very good, and there’s no evidence that they got the same impact and popularity as they used to.”

Meta has taken down a network of fake accounts on its platforms created by an organization dubbed Cyber ​​Front Z and people formerly associated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA), suspected of being the Kremlin’s digital arm. .

These fake accounts, run by members of a troll farm in St. Petersburg, posted pro-Russian comments under personalities and media content to “give the impression of popular support for the invasion of Ukraine.”

“Russia is sending tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, where local Nazis […] holding civilians hostage,” one of those accounts commented under a video posted by Angelina Jolie of the war on Instagram, according to a Meta report.

In total, the social media giant deleted more than 1,000 Instagram accounts and 45 Facebook accounts in early April. Some 49,000 accounts followed one or more fake Instagram profiles.

The 2016 US presidential campaign was marked by massive IRA influence operations in favor of Donald Trump.

But unlike other campaigns in the past, Cyber ​​Front Z didn’t try to hide much, quite the contrary.

“There was no hidden iceberg below,” Ben Nimmo observed. “It was an attempt to hack the perception [du public]playing on our fears, playing on the impression that these operations are effective.”

“They had a weird Twitter channel saying, ‘We hacked your elections, we toppled the Americans, we have your democracy in our pocket,’” the official said.

In March, Russian media outlet Fontanka reported that a “troll farm” was recruiting, among other things, “spammers” and “commentators” to post on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and others in Russia.

On Telegram messengers, the public channel encouraged its subscribers to flood certain accounts of public figures or news sites with pro-Russian comments.

But the operation “was largely clumsy and ineffective,” the report notes. “On Instagram, over half of the fake accounts were detected and deactivated by our automated systems as soon as they were created.”


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