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RussiaAugust 22 2022, 14:22 pm

Meta Removes Over 1,000 Facebook and Instagram Accounts Linked to Russia’s “Cyber Front Z”

Meta is report­ing that it has removed a net­work of over 1,000 inau­then­tic Face­book and Insta­gram accounts oper­at­ed by a Russ­ian troll farm called “Cyber Front Z,” say­ing it used these accounts “to cre­ate a per­cep­tion of grass­roots online sup­port for Russia’s inva­sion.” Accord­ing to Meta’s Adver­sar­i­al Threat Report:

August 4, 2022 We took down a net­work of Insta­gram accounts oper­at­ed by a troll farm in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia, which tar­get­ed glob­al pub­lic dis­course about the war in Ukraine. This appeared to be a poor­ly exe­cut­ed attempt, pub­licly coor­di­nat­ed via a Telegram chan­nel, to cre­ate a per­cep­tion of grass­roots online sup­port for Russia’s inva­sion by using fake accounts to post pro-Rus­sia com­ments on con­tent by influ­encers and media. We detect­ed this activ­i­ty and began tak­ing action in March, right after review­ing pub­lic report­ing by the Russ­ian out­let Fontan­ka. They exposed a phys­i­cal troll farm oper­at­ed out of an office build­ing in St. Peters­burg, only 10 days after it had adver­tised job post­ings for “spam­mers, com­menters, con­tent ana­lysts, design­ers and pro­gram­mers” focused on YouTube, Telegram and Tik­Tok. We took down the net­work in ear­ly April, once we com­plet­ed our inves­ti­ga­tion, and have con­tin­ued to detect and dis­able its attempts to come back. We linked this activ­i­ty to a self-pro­claimed enti­ty called “Cyber Front Z,” and to indi­vid­u­als asso­ci­at­ed with past activ­i­ty by the Inter­net Research Agency (IRA). Cyber Front Z is now banned from our plat­forms. Our inves­ti­ga­tion found attempts at dri­ving com­ments to people’s con­tent on Insta­gram, Face­book, Tik­Tok, Twit­ter, YouTube, LinkedIn, VKon­tak­te and Odnok­lass­ni­ki. It appears that hired “trolls” worked in shifts sev­en days a week, with a dai­ly brief break for lunch.

Read the full report here.

Meta says it took down 45 Face­book and 1,027 Insta­gram accounts linked to Cyber Front Z. These accounts amassed more than 49,000 fol­low­ers and spent $1,400 for ads on Face­book and Telegram, paid in Rubles.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report first report­ed on Cyber Front Z in April, not­ing that the troll farm con­sists of a pub­lic-fac­ing Telegram chan­nel where vol­un­teers are direct­ed to post dis­in­for­ma­tion under their own names and a pri­vate, pro­fes­sion­al troll army paid to post sim­i­lar dis­in­for­ma­tion using fake iden­ti­ties. While at the time of the report­ing, the Cyber Front Z Telegram chan­nel had more than 87,000 fol­low­ers, it has grown to almost 110,000 sub­scribers in recent months. The GIOR also report­ed that the group had tar­get­ed some of the world’s biggest elec­tron­ic musi­cians, com­ment­ing pro-Russ­ian state­ments on the social media accounts of Daft Punk or David Guetta.

Accord­ing to a report by the Guardian, Cyber Front Z is sus­pect­ed of links to Yevge­ny Prigozhin, the founder of the Inter­net Research Agency accused of med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion that saw Don­ald Trump win the pres­i­den­cy. The same report says the Telegram chan­nel “Cyber Front Z” has played a key role in the network.

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