Meta Disables Russian Propaganda Network Targeting Europe
A sprawling disinformation network originating in Russia sought to use hundreds of fake social media accounts and dozens of sham news websites to spread Kremlin talking points about the invasion of Ukraine, Meta revealed, David Klepper reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: The operation involved more than 60 websites created to mimic legitimate news sites including The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom and Germany’s Der Spiegel.
The company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it identified and disabled the operation before it was able to gain a large audience.
Nonetheless, Facebook said it was the largest and most complex Russian propaganda effort that it has found since the invasion of Ukraine began, Nomaan Merchant also reported for AP.
The operation involved more than 60 websites created to mimic legitimate news sites including The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom and Germany’s Der Spiegel. Instead of the actual news reported by those outlets, however, the fake sites contained links to Russian propaganda and disinformation about Ukraine.
More than 1,600 fake Facebook accounts were used to spread the propaganda to audiences in Germany, Italy, France, the UK, and Ukraine. The findings highlighted both the promise of social media companies to police their sites and the peril that disinformation continues to pose.
Researchers at Meta Platforms Inc. in Menlo Park, California also exposed a smaller network that originated in China and attempted to spread divisive political content in the US. The operation reached only a tiny US audience, with some posts receiving just a single engagement.
The posts also made some amateurish moves that showed they weren’t American, including some clumsy English language mistakes and a habit of posting during Chinese working hours.
Despite its ineffectiveness, the network is notable because it’s the first identified by Meta that targeted Americans with political messages ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The Chinese posts didn’t support one party or the other but seemed intent on stirring up polarization.