Meta told the world today how it found and took down two “covert influence operations” in China, Russia.
Both of them broke Meta’s rule about coordinated fake behavior (CIB). China’s operation was the smaller of the two. It was mostly aimed at the US and the Czech Republic and was made up of four short campaigns that ran from the fall of 2021 to the fall of 2022.
In the Czech Republic, there were anti-government posts that criticized the government’s actions in Ukraine and Russia, as well as the effects on the economy and warnings not to upset China. Before the midterm elections in the US, both sides of politics were attacked.
The Chinese operation was made up of 81 Facebook accounts, eight Facebook Pages, two Instagram accounts, a Facebook Group, several Twitter accounts, and two Czech petition platforms. Meta found out about the network before it had a chance to grow because all of the posts were made during working hours in China, which didn’t match those of either of the target countries.
The bigger Russian operation began in May and was aimed at Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine, and the UK. Unsurprisingly, the focus was on criticizing Ukraine, supporting Russia, and saying that Western sanctions would backfire. The network was made up of more than 60 websites that tried to look like real news sources like Spiegel, The Guardian, and Bild.
People posted about the articles on these fake websites on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram, and even some YouTube videos and memes. These posts were made in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Ukrainian. After hearing about fake news activity for the first time in Germany, Meta began its investigation. In the end, the Digital Forensics Research Lab helped.
Meta says, “This is the biggest and most complicated Russian operation we’ve stopped since the start of the Ukraine war.” When Meta blocked domains that had to do with the operation, the people running it quickly set up new websites to replace them. Meta calls it “a strange mix of sophistication and brute force.”
Both networks have been shut down, and Meta has written a CIB report about what it found. It is hoped that the report will “help the security community find and stop malicious activity elsewhere on the internet.” Meta also gave other tech companies, security researchers, governments, and law enforcement more information.
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