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Protests and prayers: People across the world condemn Russian invasion
02:27 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN Business  — 

Facebook (FB)’s parent Meta said Monday it has caught dozens of fake, pro-Russian accounts, groups and pages across its platforms trying to spread anti-Ukrainian propaganda as the war in Ukraine continues to rage.

Meta’s takedown of the influence campaign also coincided with what company officials described as a separate, intensified push by pro-Russian hackers to compromise the social media accounts of Ukrainian journalists, military leaders and government officials. The hacking campaign, attributed to an actor security researchers have nicknamed “Ghostwriter,” appears to have succeeded with at least some Facebook accounts, Meta said.

Both initiatives underscore how groups supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have attempted to win the information war playing out online, not just on Facebook but on an array of social media platforms and websites.

Over the weekend, Meta said, the company became aware of roughly 40 accounts, groups and pages masquerading as real people. To pull off the deception, the disinformation agents used AI-generated profile pictures and claimed to be writing from Kyiv, according to the company.

One of the fictitious accounts pretended to be an aviation engineer; others claimed to be news editors or scientific authors, Meta said. The accounts published content on Facebook, Instagram and across the wider internet discrediting Ukraine as a failed state, among other claims, Meta said.

The company added that the influence campaign appears to be linked to another campaign Facebook disrupted in 2020. At the time, Facebook’s investigation tied the earlier influence operation to people in Russia, as well as NewsFront and SouthFront, two Crimea-based alleged disinformation sites that have since been sanctioned by the US government.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Meta’s head of security policy, declined to elaborate on the nature of the links, and also repeatedly declined to tell reporters how widely the more recent campaign’s content may have been shared, viewed or engaged with on Meta’s platforms.

But he described the campaign as “relatively small,” with fewer than 4,000 Facebook followers and fewer than 500 followers on Instagram. And he added that Meta was able to disrupt the network before it could amass a large audience.

Thus far, Meta has not found any evidence of pro-Ukrainian fake activity on its platform but the company would announce if it did, Gleicher told CNN.

“Why we share these operations is to make sure that people understand and can see what’s happening on all sides of any conflict,” Gleicher said. “What we’re seeing here is activity from actors who, from the content they’re sharing and the behavior they’re engaged in, appears aligned more in undermining trust of the Ukrainian government and boosting the activities of Russian actors.”

Meanwhile, the campaign to hack into the social media accounts of Ukrainians has targeted “a handful” of victims, Gleicher said, adding that the effort had gone after at least one journalist and multiple Ukrainian military and government officials. Meta has notified its users who were targeted by Ghostwriter, Gleicher said.