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Fake social media accounts aimed at Ukraine, says Meta

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Facebook -- whose parent company has been renamed Meta -- has been battling regulatory issues, negative headlines around bullying and disinformation


Facebook — whose parent company has been renamed Meta — has been battling regulatory issues, negative headlines around bullying and disinformation – Copyright AFP/File Chris DELMAS

Pro-Russia groups are orchestrating misinformation campaigns on social media, using fake profiles or hacked accounts to paint Ukraine as a feeble pawn of Western duplicity, Meta said Sunday.

The cyber security team at the tech giant — parent of Facebook and Instagram — said it blocked a set of Russia-linked fake accounts that were part of a social media scheme to undermine Ukraine.

“They ran websites posing as independent news entities and created fake personas across social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and also Russian Odnoklassniki and VK,” Meta said in a blog post.

In some cases, “they used profile pictures that we believe were likely generated using artificial intelligence techniques.”

The small network of Facebook and Instagram accounts targeted people in Ukraine, using posts to try to get people to visit websites featuring bogus news about the country’s effort to defend itself from the invasion by Russia.

Meta said it connected the network to people in Russia and Ukraine, as well as media organizations NewsFront and SouthFront in Crimea.

The US has identified NewsFront and SouthFront as disinformation outlets that get marching orders from Russian intelligence services.

The organizations were among more than a dozen entities sanctioned by Washington for trying to influence the 2020 US presidential election “at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government.”

Meta shut down the bogus accounts and blocked sharing of internet addresses involved in the deception, director of threat disruption David Agranovich said in a briefing.

Bogus claims published by the sites include that the West had betrayed Ukraine and that Ukraine is a failed state, according to Agranovich.

– ‘Ghostwriter’ –

Meanwhile, a hacking group called Ghostwriter believed to operate out of Russia has ramped up action against military figures and journalists in Ukraine in recent days, according to Meta’s security team.

Ghostwriter’s typical tactic is to target victims with “phishing” emails that trick them into clicking on deceptive länkar in an effort to steal log-in credentials.

The goal of compromising Facebook accounts appeared to be to spread länkar to misinformation, such as a YouTube video falsely contending to be of Ukrainian soldiers surrendering to Russian troops, according to Meta.

“We’ve taken steps to secure accounts that we believe were targeted by this threat actor,” said Meta head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher.

“We also blocked phishing domains these hackers used to try to trick people in Ukraine into compromising their online accounts.”

Facebook on Friday restricted Russian state media’s ability to earn money on the social media platform as Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine reached the streets of Kyiv.

Gleicher said that Meta had yet to see any throttling of Facebook in Russia, despite the country threatening to hit it with restrictions after it refused to stop using fact-checkers and content warning labels on state media posts.

Social media networks have become one of the fronts in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, home to sometimes misleading information but also real-time monitoring of a quickly developing conflict that marks Europe’s biggest geopolitical crisis in decades.



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Twitter utökar innehållsrekommendationer, visar användare fler tweets från profiler de inte följer

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Twitter Expands Content Recommendations, Showing Users More Tweets from Profiles They Don’t Follow

Suddenly seeing a heap more random accounts appear in your Twitter feed?

This is why – today, Twitter ramped up its tweet recommendations for a heap more users.

So you’re going to see more tweets in your feed based on things like:

  • Interests based on tweet activity
  • Topics you follow
  • Tweets you’ve engaged with
  • Tweets people in your network like
  • People followed by people you follow

There’s a heap of expanded exposure potential here, and Twitter, in an effort to juice engagement, is looking to keep people in the app for as long as possible, which, ideally, these recommendations will facilitate.

It’s similar to how Facebook and Instagram are now showing you more AI-based content recommendations, which stems from TikTok, and its focus on highlighting the most relevant content to each user, which is not directly tied to your own social graph.

There was a time when your social graph was the defining factor, which gave Facebook a huge advantage, but now, there’s been a bigger shift towards entertainment over social interaction, which expands the potential to show each user more interesting content, from a much broader range of sources.

Conceptually it makes sense, but it’s largely reliant on the platform algorithms being actually good at showing you the best content, based on your interests. TikTok is very good at this, hooking into your expressed likes and dislikes based on your viewing history.

Twitter, however, not so much.

In my experience, Twitter’s recommended topics are always pretty far off, and even within those topics, the tweets it highlights tend to also be off-topic, uninteresting, and even just weird a lot of the time.

Right now, Twitter seems convinced that I’m interested in ‘AirBnB’, ‘skönhet Influencers’ and ‘Blink 182’. I’m not interested in any of these things, which I’ve tried to tell Twitter’s algorithms by selecting the ‘Not interested in this topic’ option – yet every time I re-open the app, they’re on my Explore page once again.

It could be worse – last month it was showing me ‘Peanuts’ comics, so I had Charlie Brown’s massive head staring back at me every time I tapped over to the Explore tab.

Again, I’ve directly told Twitter that I’m not interested, but it keeps showing them to me, while today, after this new announcement, this is what my feed currently looks like:

And they just keep coming – every time I scroll back to the top, another 20 tweets are in my feed, with 80% being recommendations.

Look, this is probably a short-term push, and maybe it helps people discover new users to follow, and helps Twitter boost engagement. But again, if you’re seeing a heap more recommendations, this is why.

Hopefully, the feedback will help Twitter refine its topic and content streams.  



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