Meta dismantled an ineffective Russian propaganda operation

Meta dismantled an ineffective Russian propaganda operation< /p> UPDATE DAY

SAN FRANCISCO | An organization close to Moscow has waged a social media influence campaign in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, using 'troll farms' and hackneyed tactics, Meta (Facebook, Instagram) revealed on Thursday . 

“It looked like a step back,” Ben Nimmo, one of the Californian group's security managers, told AFP. “But they haven't been very good and there's no evidence that they got the impact and virality they had before.”

Meta dismantled a network of fake accounts on its platforms, created by an entity dubbed “Cyber ​​Front Z” and people formerly associated with the “Internet Research Agency” (IRA), suspected of being a digital arm of the Kremlin.

These fake accounts, run by employees of a “troll farm” in St. Petersburg, posted pro-Russia comments under personalities and media content, to “give the impression of popular support to the invasion of Ukraine”.

“Russia is sending tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, where the local Nazis (…) are holding the citizens hostage”, commented the one such account under a video posted by Angelina Jolie about the war on Instagram, according to Meta's report.

In all, the social media giant withdrew more than 1,000 accounts on Instagram and 45 on Facebook in early April. Some 49,000 accounts were following one or more of the fake profiles on Instagram.

In 2016, the US presidential campaign was marked by massive IRA influence operations in favor of Donald Trump.< /p>

But unlike other past campaigns, Cyber ​​Front Z didn't really try to hide, on the contrary.

“There was no iceberg hidden below,” Ben Nimmo noted. “It was an attempt to hack (the public's) perception, playing on our fears, playing on the impression that these operations are effective.”

“They had this weird channel on Twitter that said + we hacked your elections, we overthrew the Americans, your democracy is in our pocket +”, related the person in charge.

A Russian media, Fontanka, revealed in March that a “farm with trolls” recruited, among other things, “spammers” and “commentators” to post messages on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, and others in Russia.

On Telegram messaging, a public channel called its subscribers to flood certain accounts of public figures or news sites with pro-Russian comments.

But the operation “was largely clumsy and ineffective”, notes the report. “On Instagram, more than half of fake accounts were detected and deactivated by our automatic systems right after they were created.”