how the Ukraine-Russia war is exported to Facebook

In parallel with the battlefield between Ukraine and Russia, it is a true information war that takes place online, and Facebook is one of the many battlefields. On the occasion of your quarterly report Regarding the threats it responded to, Meta (Facebook’s parent company) detailed certain maneuvers derived from the conflict that affected its main social network.

On Facebook, it is also Russia and its allies, known for their ability to manipulate public opinion, who assume the role of attackers, between attempts at espionage, disinformation and hacking.

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Block misinformation

To recognize destabilization operations, the social network strives to detect “inauthentic coordinated behavior”, one of the great challenges of its moderation. Specifically, the platform tries to distinguish the opinion movements generated by its users, from those whose magnitude is artificially increased by robots, hacked accounts or advertising. Thus, he banishes what he calls “networks”, groups of dozens of accounts and pages that are closely followed and act in a coordinated manner.

For example, on February 24, the day of the Russian invasion, Facebook dismantled an influence operation started by Belarusian intelligence. The latter spread false information in Polish and English stating that the Ukrainian troops were surrendering without a fight and that the leaders had fled the country. The goal: to undermine the morale of Ukraine’s supporters and to support Russian propaganda that Ukraine awaited its “liberation” by Russian forces. Meta also specifies that you have blocked attempts to create an account by members of theInternet Research Agency (IRA), the powerful Russian propaganda outlet, which it had already banned after previous attempts in 2020 and 2021.

Last disinformation tool dismantled by Meta in the last quarter: a network of massive denunciations. More than 200 accounts were coordinated to artificially flag thousands of war-related posts that misrepresented Russia for Facebook to remove. “Presumably in an effort to evade detection tools, the people behind this mass reporting activity were coordinating their efforts into a “kitchen” theme group, which had 50 members when we took it down.“, specifies the platform. The challenge for the social network here is not to let these maneuvers trap its automatic moderation tools.

hacking attempts

In the cyber world, whoever says state involvement means involvement of one or more APTs (advanced persistent threats). These hacker divisions, attached more or less closely to a State, have geopolitical objectives (theft or destruction of documents, espionage, manipulation), where cybercriminals seek economic interests.

Facebook thus identified the activity of ghost writerbound by the reports of the mandiant company to the governments of Belarus and Russia. Accustomed to targeting countries bordering Russia such as Poland, the group always acts with the aim of instilling mistrust of NATO. Its modus operandi consists of compromising email addresses to regain access to the social networks linked to them. It targets the defense, energy, telecommunications and media sectors. On February 27, Meta identified the Ghostwriter’s target of Ukrainian public figures in an attempt to post a fake YouTube video on their social media showing Ukrainian soldiers waving the white flag. “We have blocked these videos from being shared“says the platform.

If for the social network the line of moderation is easy to draw on these abusive behaviors, it becomes much more delicate in diplomatic matters. For example, official Russian accounts – such as that of the French embassy– continue to deny the massacre of Ukrainian civilians perpetrated by their army in the city of boutcha, despite mounting evidence, its messages are not limited. Furthermore, in order to continue to control its version of events, the Russian government has banned facebook and instagram of are Internet.