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‘The goal is to make them less and less effective’


Facebook parent Meta (FB) is taking on Russian propaganda by removing groups and users that share it on the company’s social networks. But that doesn’t mean Meta will ever be completely rid of it.

“One of the fundamental truths of security is that the bad guys keep trying, and we know they’ll keep trying,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, told Yahoo Finance on Monday. “The goal is to make them less and less effective.”

On Monday, Meta announced that it knocked out a pro-Russia network of accounts spreading disinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The group, Gleicher said, is linked to a similar Russian operation Meta took down last year.

The difference this time around, however, is that while the propagandists managed to get some 250,000 followers to their various pages promoting Russian disinformation before Meta caught them in 2021, they only got 5,000 followers this year.

“That’s a very good trend,” Gleicher said.

Facebook-based disinformation campaigns aren’t new. Russia attempted to disrupt both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. elections, as well as the U.K’s 2016 Brexit referendum and elections in France in 2017 and Germany in 2021.

Gleicher, however, says that unlike in 2016, networks of defenders now work to recognize disinformation campaigns.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with representatives of the business community at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia February 24, 2022. Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with representatives of the business community at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia February 24, 2022. Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS

Despite those increased efforts, however, Meta continues to face considerable pushback from regulators around the world who say the company doesn’t do enough to remove disinformation. Meta, for its part, says it doesn’t want to delete posts, regardless of accuracy, so that users can see what people are posting. The company does, however, label disinformation and misinformation as incorrect.

As for how the company identifies disinformation, Gleicher told Yahoo Finance that the social media giant works with third-party fact-checkers to ensure the accuracy of user-generated content.

But not everyone likes Meta’s fact-checking. Russia, for instance, has limited its citizens’ access to Facebook, because Meta refused to stop labeling disinformation from state media organizations as false.

On Monday, at the request of the European Union, Meta blocked the pages for Russia’s RT and Sputnik state media organizations across the E.U.

Beyond the disinformation networks it’s dismantling, Meta announced that it is monitoring a Russia-linked hacker group known as Ghostwriter that’s stealing users’ credentials to spread disinformation.

According to Gleicher, the group is sending out fraudulent emails in an attempt to gain access to victims’ email accounts. Once they do that, they’re able to jump to their social media accounts and begin posting as if they were their victims.

The group is specifically targeting high-profile Ukrainians including politicians and journalists in an effort to spread disinformation about the invasion.

“One of the pieces of content they tried to share was a video that purported to show Ukrainian soldiers surrendering and waving a white flag of surrender,” Gleicher explained. “This is why it’s so important to find and counter these operations early.”

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.





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