Hackers linked to Russia hacked into the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military officials and were working to upload videos of defeated and surrendering Ukrainian soldiers when the conspiracy was thwarted, a report from Meta said, adding that social media confusion has given rise to a worrying increase. Years
The Facebook and Instagram owner’s report found an increase in content related to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, as well as an increase in internal confusion and propaganda in countries around the world, suggesting that advanced tactics are now being used more extensively by foreign intelligence agencies. .
“Although much of the public’s attention in recent years has been focused on foreign intervention, the global threat is growing,” said Nick Clegg, Meter President for Global Affairs and former British Deputy Prime Minister.
Russia and its allies, a key player, and groups linked to the Kremlin are spreading confusion over its aggression in Ukraine and spreading pro-Russian conspiracy theories at home, the report said.
Meta has sought to retrieve the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military leaders from a shady hacker organization known as Ghostwriter, a previous study linked to Russian ally Belarus. Ghostwriter has a history of spreading NATO critical content and has attempted to hack email accounts.
“It’s a tried and true thing they do,” said Ben Reid, director of cyberspinage analysis at Mandiant, a leading U.S. cybersecurity firm that has tracked the activities of ghostwriters for years. Last year, Mandiant said digital clues suggested that the hackers were based in Belarus, although EU officials have previously blamed Russia.
Belarus and Russia did not respond to a request for comment.
Meta has outlined other misleading propaganda campaigns linked to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, including one involving dozens of fake accounts that spread anti-Ukrainian rhetoric. Another network has filed thousands of fake allegations to expel Ukrainian Facebook users from the platform. The network hid its activities in a Facebook group dedicated to cooking.
In Russia, the Kremlin has blocked hundreds of news sources and websites, including Facebook and Twitter, and threatened to imprison anyone who tries to report on the war. Instead of accurate journalism, the state-controlled media has pumped infamous conspiracy theories about the Ukrainian Nazi or secret US biological weapons lab.
Meta and other major technology companies have responded by removing or restricting Russian state-run media, targeting malicious networks and labeling content that does not remove it. Twitter announced this week that it would also label state-controlled media from Belarus.
The prevalence of Russian-linked propaganda and propaganda on social media shows the need for a more aggressive response, said the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a London-based non-profit organization that supports greater social media control. A survey by the group found numerous Facebook references to Russia’s infamous biological weapons conspiracy theory.
“Despite taking action against state channels under a lot of pressure, Meta is failing miserably to contain the big misleading statements that benefit Putin’s regime,” said Imran Ahmed, the centre’s CEO.
Meta said it will introduce additional policies in the coming weeks and months to ensure it stays ahead of groups seeking to leverage its platforms. Nathaniel Glitcher, head of Meter Security Policy, noted that groups seeking to spread confusion and propaganda were also adapting their tactics.
“We hope they come back,” Glitcher said.