“Russians are working out 12 key topics against Ukrainians on Facebook at once.” The Centre presented research on informational attacks

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On April 30, the media centre “Ukraine” hosted a presentation and discussion of the research “Informational attacks in social networks: a study of Russian disinformation influence through advertising on Facebook.”

The study was conducted jointly with the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM), and can be read here.

Deputy Head of the Centre for Strategic Communications Mykola Balaban explained that Facebook is a relatively safe messenger, especially compared to Telegram, but the Russians are finding ways to influence the minds of Ukrainians there as well.

“Why do we call Facebook a safer messenger? Meta invests resources in catching disinformation on its platforms, while the company actively interacts with both government bodies and civil society, which is very good.

At the same time, we see that the Russians are trying to overcome the rules in every possible way. As part of our interaction with Meta, every week we send pages of bot-accounts impersonating themselves as Ukrainian high-ranking officials. Just this week, we sent six such pages impersonating Olena Zelenska, Oleksandr Syrskyi, AFU and one twink account of Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mykola Balaban explained that thanks to the analysis of the enemy’s advertising posts; it is possible to understand what sore points in Ukrainian society the Russians want to press.

‘’The enemy does not stop trying to influence people through Facebook, so this work is very important, even if it seems that this social network is relatively safe. That is why citizens who use Facebook must understand that there is some ‘’comrade major’’ next to them who is trying to influence them through his bots.’’

Serhii Zhukov, analyst at the Centre for Strategic Communications, explained which topics are most actively used by the enemy.

‘’The purpose of any IPSO is to push the object to a certain action or inaction. In the process of research, we processed a certain array: about 600 messages with 400 pages from March to November of last year, and discovered 12 key topics that Russians are working on.’’

According to the analyst, the following four topics are the most popular at once: the battlefield, discrediting the West in the eyes of Ukrainians, mobilization, and corruption in Ukraine.

“Their task is to demoralize Ukrainian citizens, encourage people to hide from the war as much as possible, and also provoke the maximum number of splits in society, both on the civil and military lines.”

Alyona Romanyuk, media expert and author of the “NotaEnota” anti-fake project, explained that the main task of the enemy is to provide a negative background around what is happening in Ukrainian society.

“For example, a journalistic investigation revealed facts of corruption in Ukraine. What are the Russians doing? They start with the true fact from this investigation and scale it to the entire Ukrainian society.”

The media expert also noted that Russians actively use caricatures and pseudo-entertainment content.

“A person will not check information when he/she goes to the social network just to relax, and these caricatures are drawn on an industrial scale. If you are already hooked on similar content, the algorithm will offer you something similar again in the future.”

Igor Rozkladai, deputy director of CEDEM, spoke about another hostile trend: that is creation of clone pages of famous volunteers and the Ukrainian military.

“They start asking for money, as if for a volunteer. Recently, there was a case with the creation of the Taras Petrynenko clone page. Thus, we started reporting advertisements because the Russians are constantly looking for workarounds and, unfortunately, they find them. They started using another bot farm, which the system doesn’t automatically catch yet, so we had to report it manually. It was deleted, but it has spanned for a certain time, and users have reacted emotionally to it.”

Roman Osadchuk, a researcher at the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), spoke about the nuances of the large-scale Russian information operation Doppelgänger.

“This is happening (information operation) not only in Ukraine, but also in other countries. Why is this report so important? It is important because colleagues made screenshots of ads from the Ukrainian Meta advertising library, which disappeared. If an ad is targeted at a European audience, you will be able to see it even in a few years.”

According to him, Russians use the same techniques abroad, but with slightly different patterns.

“Ukraine is corrupt; you don’t need to help Ukraine, it’s better to spend money on solving our own problems – there are a lot of messages like this, and it happens in waves.”

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