Fake sites, fake accounts and social networks: how Russia is campaigning against Ukraine in Europe

Maxence Glineur

September 29, 2022 at 8:30 a.m.


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An essential tool in projecting its soft power and destabilizing nations, digital technology is a weapon in its own right in the Russian war machine.

The Kremlin is experienced in disinformation. At least, he has been suspected for several years of participating more or less directly in large-scale operations. Between influence in elections and denigration of vaccines against COVID-19, the examples are always more numerous.

Meta claims to have foiled a vast disinformation operation

In a new report titled “ Eliminating Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior from China and Russia “, the Californian company reports a large-scale disinformation campaign originating in Russia. Operating on several social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Telegram and LiveJournal, the operation involved a network of 60 fake websites. For the sake of credibility, some of these sites have impersonated major European media such as Der Spiegel, The Guardian Where Picture.

Ben Nimmo and Mike Torrey, the authors of the report, write:

This is the largest and most complex Russian origin operation that we have foiled since the start of the war in Ukraine. She exhibited an unusual combination of sophistication and brute strength. The spoofed websites and the use of numerous languages ​​required an investment that was as technical as it was linguistic. Amplification on social media, on the other hand, relied mostly on sketchy ads and fake accounts.

Forged articles were most often critical of Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, or opposed to sanctions imposed on Russia. Their content was produced in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian, among others, which gives an idea of ​​the scope of the operation.

Memes as a propaganda tool

According to the authors, the fake accounts used have ended up creating “mini-brands” which, by imposing themselves on different social networks simultaneously, have built up real visibility. In addition to the participation of the Facebook pages of Russian embassies, the initiators would have spent 105,000 dollars to highlight the fake articles and… original memes. Indeed, Meta reports that the campaign allegedly used it to promote pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian stories. The company also cites bogus petitions, including one on that called on the German government to end its ” unacceptable generosity towards Ukrainian refugees.

While this campaign was sophisticated in some ways, Meta says the repetitive posting pattern by trumped up accounts caused many of them to be removed by automated systems. The authors of the report conclude that the two approaches employed, the creation of bogus news sites and their distribution via social networks, ” functioned as an attempted raid on the world of information, rather than a real effort to occupy it permanently. »

Source : The Verge

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