Russia is resorting to spammer tactics to spread Ukraine war propaganda after more sophisticated influence operations at Facebook and Instagram have been thwarted, Meta said on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Tactics have included deploying thousands of fake accounts to hijack online conversations about the war and setting up bogus versions of legitimate news outlet websites at similar online addresses, Meta said in a threat report.

"This activity bears a closer resemblance to what you might see from a spammer's playbook rather than the more stealthy and sophisticated Russian influence operations we have disrupted in the past," Meta head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a briefing.

Meta shares what it finds with researchers and other social networks to expose deception campaigns, he added.

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After Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago this week, Meta took measures to prevent state news outlets from using its platform to spread misinformation or make money from bogus reports about the war, Gleicher recounted.

User engagement with Russian state news outlet misinformation dropped more than 80 percent, according to Meta.

"While overt activity by Russian state controlled media on our platforms has decreased, attempts at covert activity have increased sharply," said Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg.

Last year, Meta took down two Russian covert influence campaigns that tried to hijack online exchanges about the war with comment from armies of fake accounts, according to Clegg.

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"Rather than trying to build up convincing fake personas these campaigns resembled smash-and-grab operations that use thousands of fake accounts across social media, not just our platforms, in an attempt to overwhelm the conversation with their content," Clegg said.

Both operations targeted many social media platforms, including Telegram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, Meta reported.

Those operations continue to try to revive ousted fake accounts, according to Gleicher

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"There's almost a bit of desperation around this effort; they're not having a lot of success," Gleicher said.

 

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