Facebook and Twitter take down u.s. influence campaign about Ukraine

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Facebook and Twitter disrupted at least two covert influence campaigns targeting users in the Middle East and Asia with pro-Western perspectives on international politics, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a new report from social media analytics firm Graphika and Stanford University. .

The campaigns — one of which is linked to the U.S. government — relied on a web of interconnected accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and five other social media giants to promote stories that support the interests of the United States and its allies, while oppose countries including Russia, China and Iran, according to the report.

The covert influence campaigns are being brought down at a time when social media giants are trying to crack down on disinformation campaigns about the war in Ukraine. But much of that work has focused on countering efforts by the Russian authorities to promote propaganda about the war, including false claims about Ukrainian military aggression in the region or accusations of complicity in the war by Western countries.

This action by the social media giants in particular is notable because one of the campaigns was linked to a US government messaging campaign called the Trans-Regional Web Initiative, the report said.

Margarita Franklin, a spokeswoman for Facebook’s parent company, Meta, confirmed in a statement that the company and Twitter recently removed a network of accounts from the United States for violating the platforms’ rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior. Franklin said it is the first time the company has removed a foreign-focused influence network in the United States. A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The network of accounts shared news articles from US government-funded media, such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and links to websites sponsored by the US military to criticize the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. The campaigns promoted the narrative that Russia was responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians and other atrocities so that it could pursue its “imperial ambitions,” the report said.

The covert campaigns often mimicked the strategies employed by other countries, such as Russia, to influence public perception of world events in other countries. For example, accounts identified by Twitter and Facebook created fake personas with digitally captured photos, pretended to be independent media and attempted hashtag campaigns, the report said.

In the aftermath of the war, social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube banned or restricted Russian state media accounts, restricted advertising, and bolstered their fact-checking activities during the war. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, traffic to Russian government-backed social media outlets surged in the early days of the invasion, then plummeted as businesses collapsed.

Since then, Ukrainian officials have flagged thousands of tweets, YouTube videos and other social media posts as Russian propaganda or anti-Ukrainian hate speech, but many of the companies have failed to keep track, according to a recent report.

This is a story in development. Come back for updates.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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