All of the targets originated in Russia and were responsible for spreading misinformation about Russia’s war with Ukraine. According to Meta, this network of pages and accounts focused on audiences in Germany, France, UK, Italy, and Ukraine.
Begun in May 2022, Meta focused on a number of websites that impersonated authentic European news sites, including the Guardian, Italian news agency ANSA, and Der Spiegel in Germany.
“They would post original articles that criticised Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, supported Russia, and argued that Western sanctions on Russia would backfire,” Meta’s Global Threat Intelligence Lead, Ben Nimmo, and Threat Disruption Director, David Agranovich, described in a blog post.
These articles were then promoted across social media, on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Telegram, as well as in memes and YouTube videos, to spread the misinformation. In addition, petitions on prominent websites like Change.org were used to promote them further.
Meta reported that even as domains were shut down, new websites were set up, suggesting an ongoing and reactive operation. The company has described this as the biggest and most intricate Russian-origin operation it has dismantled since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Throughout the operation, Meta claims to have identified and shut down more than 1,600 Facebook accounts and 700 Facebook pages connected to the campaign, amassing more than 5,000 followers between them.
In addition, Meta has also said it has been working to take down a Chinese network that focused on US internal politics ahead of the midterm American elections, such as abortion and gun regulation.
Although it was a relatively small network of less than 100 accounts, pages, and groups, Meta recognised it as the first to have sent political messages to Americans in advance of the midterm elections being held later this year. The network was believed to be attempting to cause division in American politics, despite not supporting a specific party.