Facebook’s parent company Meta said on Thursday that Russian state actors and others are relentlessly trying to use the social network against Ukraine with deception, hacking and coordinated bullying campaigns.
Social media networks have become one of the fronts in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, home to sometimes misleading information, but also real-time monitoring of one of the biggest geopolitical crises in decades.
“Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our teams have been on high alert to detect and disrupt threats and platform abuse, including attempts to get back through networks we previously removed,” Meta said in its latest threat report.
A spike in activity targeting Ukraine shortly before it was invaded by Russia in February has become an entrenched struggle, according to Ben Nimmo, leader of the Meta threat intelligence team.
Tactics included using false accounts to spread false stories, such as the surrender of Ukrainian troops or calling for a street protest in Warsaw against the Polish government.
Meta said it disrupted a network of about 200 Facebook accounts in Russia that collaborated to falsely accuse people of violating the social network’s policy to remove posts about Ukraine.
According to the social network, those involved tried to disguise their collaboration as a cooking group.
“Most of these fictitious reports were aimed at people in Ukraine and Russia,” Meta said in the report.
“The people behind this activity relied on fake, authentic, and duplicate accounts to file hundreds – in some cases thousands – of complaints against their targets.”
Such coordinated bullying campaigns are called ‘mobbing’.
Meanwhile, government-affiliated “actors” from Russia and its ally Belarus have engaged in cyber-espionage and covert influence operations online, Meta said.
That malicious activity targeted Ukraine’s telecom and defense sectors, along with tech platforms, journalists and activists, the report said.
Meta executives said they have seen a “further spike” in attacks by a Russia-affiliated hacker group known as Ghostwriter.
Ghostwriter’s typical tactic is to target victims with “phishing” emails that trick them into clicking deceptive links in an attempt to steal login credentials.
The goal seemed to be to spread links to disinformation.
“Since our last public update, this group has attempted to hack into the Facebook accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military personnel,” Meta said in the report.
“In a handful of cases, they posted videos calling on the military to surrender as if these messages were coming from the legitimate account owners.”
Meta blocked the sharing of those videos, according to head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher.
“These threat actors will not give up,” Gleicher said during a telephone briefing. “They are increasingly combining their techniques.”
Facebook has restricted the Russian state media’s ability to monetize the social media platform and has refused to stop using fact-checkers and warning labels for content on state media posts.
“We are actively assessing additional actions to take, particularly in the context of misinformation from government pages,” Gleicher said.
Meta, whose family of apps includes Instagram, has blocked the accounts of Russian state media RT and Sputnik in the European Union.
Moscow responded by blocking Facebook and Instagram.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)