Facebook, Twitter Remove Alleged Russian ‘Covert Influence Operations’


Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter have reportedly removed two anti-Ukrainian “covert influence operations” from their platforms. One group appears to be based in Russia and a second in Belarus, according to the Silicon Valley Masters of the Universe.

NBC News reports that Facebook and Twitter have removed what they refer to as anti-Ukrainian “covert influence operations.” One operation was linked to Russia and another appeared to have connections to Belarus according to the social media giants.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal (Google Cloud/YouTube)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a joint press conference with Kazakhstan's President following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 10, 2022.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a joint press conference with Kazakhstan’s President following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 10, 2022. (MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the alleged disinformation operations was a propaganda campaign featuring a website promoting anti-Ukraine information. This was reportedly linked to a known Russian disinformation operation. A Facebook spokesperson explained that the disinformation operations used AI-generated faces linked to fake columnists and news articles in an effort to add credibility to the campaign.

The other disinformation operation allegedly used hacked legitimate accounts to push anti-Ukrainian propaganda and had links to a known Belarusian hacking group. The networks were removed by both Facebook and Twitter.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said that the larger of the two campaigns operated from Russia as well as the Donbas and Crimea regions of Ukraine. The group is reportedly tied to the websites News Front and South Front which the U.S. government previously designated as part of broad disinformation efforts by Russia.

Gleicher noted that the propaganda campaign aimed to “seed stories across the internet that Ukraine isn’t doing well” by “pretending to be journalists based in Kyiv.” Gleicher added: “The good news is that neither of these campaigns have been that effective, but we do see these actors trying to target Ukraine at this point.”

He went on to say: “These actors are trying to undermine trust in the Ukrainian government, suggest that it’s a failed state, suggest that the war is going very poorly in Ukraine or trying to praise Russia.”

In 2020, Facebook removed the profiles of News Front and South Front from its platform. The websites featured articles such as “Zelensky is building a neo-Nazi dictatorship in Ukraine” and “Why Ukraine will only get worse.”

Facebook claims to have taken down 40 profiles linked to disinformation campaigns, saying that they were part of a larger persona-building operation across Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, and Russian social media networks.

Twitter claims to have banned over a dozen accounts linked to the News Front and South Front operations. A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement: “On Feb. 27, we permanently suspended more than a dozen accounts and blocked sharing of several links in violation of our platform manipulation and spam policy. Our investigation is ongoing; however, our initial findings indicate that the accounts and links originated in Russia and were attempting to disrupt the public conversation around the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.”

Misinformation has been a large part of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and many are falling victim to internet hoaxes and memes. Breitbart News recently reported that Rep. Adam Kinzinger fell for a popular prank which framed internet comedian Sam Hyde as the pilot referred to as the “Ghost of Kyiv.” Breitbart News wrote:

NeverTrump Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) fell victim to internet pranksters over the weekend, retweeting the viral hoax that the “Ghost of Kyiv,” an alleged Ukrainian fighter ace, was a man called “Samuyil Hyde.” Tricksters are quick to spread memes naming American comedian Sam Hyde as the culprit in media events such as mass shootings. In this case, Rep. Kinzinger fell for a poor photoshop of Hyde into a cockpit along with an ethnic spin on his name.

Read more at NBC News here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com


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