Meta, the company behind Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has banned from its platforms two disinformation networks that have been spreading fabricated news and misinformation about the war in Ukraine. In a statement, Meta said it was “the largest and most complex operation of Russian origin that we have contained since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.”
Real-looking news sites – fake news
At the heart of the disinformation campaign was a network of dozens of websites impersonating news sites in German, English and other languages. For example, counterfeiters had copied news offers such as “Spiegel”, “Bild” and “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.
A network of thousands of profiles and user pages then shared the links on Facebook and Instagram – sometimes with purchased reach. The network spent over $100,000 on advertising on meta platforms. Those who clicked on one of the links were directed to fake news that at first glance looked like legitimate news sites, but in the text spread Russian and anti-Western propaganda.
Journalistic research showed the danger
Meta first became known to the network through a search by T-Online. The coordinated propaganda campaign was reported there in late August.
The counterfeits originate in Russia. There, “keyboard warriors” loyal to the Kremlin are organized into complex networks that are responsible for targeted cyber attacks, disruptions and propaganda wars on the international Internet. But Chinese networks were also involved in the campaign launched by Meta.