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Russian Fake News Targeted Ukraine Elections

Russian state-sponsored trolls have been in action again, this time co-ordinating fake news efforts on social media designed to influence last week’s Ukraine elections.

The news was revealed by Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher.

The campaign in Ukraine focused on two main areas: one originating in Russia which led to the removal of 18 Facebook accounts, nine pages, and three groups; and another originating from Russia and the Luhansk region of Ukraine which led to the removal of 83 Facebook accounts, two pages, 29 groups, and five Instagram accounts.

In the former, those behind the operation created fake accounts, impersonated dead Ukrainian journalists and hid their true location as well as driving users to other websites. It involved frequent criticism of the Ukrainian government ahead of the presidential elections last week.

The second operation involved users posing as members of the Ukrainian military and focused on the conflict in the east of the country, centered around Luhansk.

However, the activity stretched well beyond Ukraine to the other side of the world.

Gleicher explained that his team was also forced to remove 12 Facebook accounts and 10 Facebook pages after spotting a fake news effort in Thailand designed to influence public opinion. It appears to have links with the Russian state.

“The people behind this small network used fake accounts to create fictitious personas and run pages, increase engagement, disseminate content, and also to drive people to off-platform blogs posing as news outlets,” he said.

“They also frequently shared divisive narratives and comments on topics including Thai politics, geopolitical issues like US-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that some of this activity was linked to an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow.”

Facebook also removed 181 accounts and 1488 pages involved in a coordinated inauthentic activity campaign in Honduras. It traced back these efforts to social media managers in the government there.

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