Meta dismantled an extensive network of Facebook and Instagram accounts spreading disinformation published on more than 60 websites that spoofed multiple news organizations across Europe.
The disinformation operation began in May 2022, and this influence network targeted Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine and the UK. It was spreading fake content related to the war in Ukraine and its impact in Europe.
Meta pointed out that this is the largest and most complex Russian operation they have disrupted since the war began in Ukraine.
The shared articles criticized Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, applauded Russia, and argued that Western sanctions on Russia would backfire.
Some of the news outlets impersonated by this massive disinformation network includes, la Repubblica (repubblica[.]life), Der Spiegel (e.g., spiegel[.]ltd, spiegel[.]today, spiegeli[.]live, spiegel[.]pro), The Guardian (theguardian[.]co[.]com), and Bild (bild[.]eu[.]com, bild[.]LLC), and Italian news agency ANSA (ansa[.]ltd)
They would promote links to the article, as well as memes and YouTube videos across many online services, including Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter, and LiveJournal. The articles were also pushed via petitions on websites like Change.org and Avaaz.
Meta said it took down thousands of Facebook and Instagram accounts and shared the following stats related to the campaign:
- Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 1,633 accounts, 703 Pages, one Group, and 29 accounts on Instagram.
- Followers: About 4,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, less than ten accounts joined this Group, and about 1,500 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
- Advertising: Around $105,000 in spending on Facebook and Instagram ads, paid primarily in U.S. dollars and euros.
Meta also disrupted for the first time a Chinese network focused on U.S. domestic politics.
Meta’s Global Threat Intelligence Lead Ben Nimmo stated that they posed as both conservatives and liberals, playing both sides of the political spectrum against each other.