Facebook Takes Down Accounts, Pages for Misinformation on Ukraine

Announcing measures to combat hacking efforts in the region, Facebook took down dozens of accounts it claims are fake and pages spreading misinformation about the Russian military invasion in Ukraine, company executives said Sunday.

According to Meta, the misinformation campaign was spread by a small network of 48 pages, accounts, and groups operating in Russia and Ukraine.

Meta’s director of threat disruption David Agranovich says that fictitious personas operated fake accounts targeting people in Ukraine across Facebook and Instagram, and on other platforms including Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram.

He also added that the hacking was carried out by Ghostwriter, a threat actor in the security community.

According to Facebook, there has been increased targeting of public figures, including military officials, in the past several days. After taking steps to secure the accounts and alert users, the platform also blocked the fishing domains that hackers were using to trick people into compromising their accounts.

Though the company refused to share the names of specific accounts that were hacked, rumors are that at least one journalist and some prominent military and government officials were hacked.

Facebook has also temporarily removed the ability to view and search friend lists on Facebook in Ukraine while Instagram is giving users in Ukraine and Russia a notification about privacy and account security at the top of their feeds.

Agranovich said that after they were compromised, accounts were typically used to share disinformation about the military conflict in the region.

According to Meta’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher, the operation had less than 4,000 followers on Facebook and less than 500 followers on Instagram, and this information was disseminated by Meta to other tech platforms, researchers, and governments.

As the investigation is continuing, Meta found links with a network that was removed in April 2020 and is connected to individuals in Russia, Ukraine’s region of Donbas, and to two Crimea media organizations sanctioned by the US government.

Previously on Friday, Moscow’s announcement that it would implement a partial restriction of access to Facebook was met with an expert’s warning that worse government action was coming.

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