Facebook has dismantled a network of fake Russian Instagram accounts that tried to discourage protesters from protesting the arrest of opponent Alexei Navalny in recent weeks, the tech giant said on Wednesday.
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The platform removed 530 accounts, which were followed by about 55,000 Instagram users in all, and who posted content whose message was intended to discredit political opponents of the government.
For example, a photo of a patient in the hospital, surrounded by medical personnel wearing protective glasses and masks, circulated with the caption:
"I went to demonstrate on January 23 - now my grandfather is on a ventilator"
More than 10,000 people have been arrested in Russia since the start of the pro-Navalny protest movement on January 23, according to an NGO.
Facebook attributed the network of fake accounts to
"individuals in Russia"
, the platform having failed to identify with certainty the organization or persons responsible for this campaign of manipulation, detected thanks to its algorithms and its teams of moderators.
"This is an interesting example of classic tactics by spam or financially motivated actors, here used to deceive people during civic protests
said David Agranovich, director of an anti-campaign team. manipulation who abuse Facebook applications.
"Poisoned" hashtags and false identities
To target the right audience, this Russian campaign
hashtags (keywords) and place names (geolocations) with false information and other propaganda messages.
"In an attempt to drown out relevant information, this network used hundreds of accounts and mass-posted content with the same hashtags and locations used by protesters,"
said David Agranovich.
The profiles included generic photos and false identities, but also photos made using artificial intelligence techniques,
"to pass themselves off as genuine activists, having doubts"
about the relevance of the demonstrations, he said. added.
Facebook and Russian state organizations have a long history since attempts to manipulate ballots in 2016, especially by Russian agencies.
The California group publishes a monthly report on inauthentic propaganda campaigns (carried out by actors who conceal their true intentions and seek to manipulate public debate) that it has identified and dismantled.