Facebook cracks down on disinformation, hacked accounts in Ukraine

Associated Press/Matt Rourke

Facebook took down dozens of fake accounts and pages spreading misinformation about the Russian-led military invasion in Ukraine, company executives said Sunday, while also taking measures to combat hacking efforts in the region.

The misinformation campaign was spread by what Meta executives called a “small network” of 48 pages, accounts and groups operating in Russia and Ukraine. 

The fake accounts operated fictitious personas across Facebook and Instagram, as well as platforms outside of Meta, including Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram, according to Meta’s director of threat disruption David Agranovich. 

The operation targeted people in Ukraine and had less than 4,000 followers on Facebook and less than 500 followers on Instagram, said Meta head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher. 

Meta shared information about the operation with other tech platforms, researchers and governments. 

Meta’s investigation is continuing, but the company found links with a network that was removed in April 2020. At the time, the network was connected to individuals in Russia, the Donbas region in Ukraine, and two media organizations in Crimea that are sanctioned by the U.S. government. 

In the past several days, the platform has also seen an “increased targeting” of public figures, including military officials. Agranovich said the hacking effort was carried out by Ghostwriter, a threat actor that has been tracked in the security community.

Facebook has taken steps to secure the accounts and alert users. The platform has also blocked the fishing domains that hackers were using to “trick people” into compromising their accounts, he said. 

Meta would not share the names of specific accounts that were hacked, but executives said at least one journalist, as well as some prominent military and government officials were hacked. 

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

The platform is also ramping up tools and services to users in Ukraine and Russia for more privacy. 

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

Tags Facebook META Russia telegram Twitter Ukraine

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