Meta Says it is Considering Steps to Curb Russian Government Misinformation

A woman holds a smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo
A woman holds a smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo
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Meta Says it is Considering Steps to Curb Russian Government Misinformation

A woman holds a smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo
A woman holds a smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo

Facebook-owner Meta has removed hacking campaigns, influence networks and scam operations amid the war in Ukraine, according to a report released on Thursday by the social media company, which also said it was reviewing additional steps to address misinformation from Russian government pages.

"We're constantly reviewing our policies based on the evolving situation on the ground and we are actively now reviewing additional steps to address misinformation and hoaxes coming from Russian government pages," said Meta's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, on a call with reporters.

Russia has battled big tech companies to control online information flows after its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, which Moscow calls a "special military operation." It has banned Facebook and Instagram, and throttled Twitter by slowing its service. Twitter said this week it will not amplify or recommend Russian government accounts to users.

In its first quarterly adversarial threat report, Meta said government-linked actors from Russia and Belarus had engaged in cyber espionage and covert online influence operations, including an influence operation linked to the Belarusian KGB.

Reuters quoted it as saying that there had been other continued attempts from networks it had previously disrupted, including further efforts by the threat actor Ghostwriter to hack the Facebook accounts of dozens of Ukraine military members.

Meta said in the report it had also removed a network of about 200 accounts operated from Russia that coordinated to falsely report people, mostly in Ukraine and Russia, for violations like hate speech or bullying.

The mass reporting was primarily coordinated in a cooking-themed Facebook Group which had about 50 members when Meta took it down in March.

Meta said it had also removed tens of thousands of accounts, pages and groups trying to use the war in Ukraine to scam users and make money by driving people to ad-filled websites or selling them merchandise. It said spammers around the world had used tactics such as streaming live-gaming videos or reposting popular content including other people's videos from Ukraine to pretend they were sharing live updates from the crisis.

Meta detailed other takedowns including the removal of two cyberespionage operations from Iran, an influence campaign in Brazil that posed as environmental activists defending deforestation in the Amazon, and a network in the Philippines that claimed credit for bringing down and defacing news websites.



Ukraine Summit Attracts World Leaders, Fails to Isolate Russia

This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.
This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.
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Ukraine Summit Attracts World Leaders, Fails to Isolate Russia

This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.
This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.

World leaders will join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a summit this weekend to explore ways of ending the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, but Russia isn't invited and the event will fall short of Kyiv's aim of isolating Moscow.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada and Japan are among those set to attend the June 15-16 meeting at the Swiss mountaintop resort of Buergenstock.

India, which has helped Moscow survive the shock of economic sanctions, is expected to send a delegation. Turkey and Hungary, which similarly maintain cordial ties with Russia, will be represented by their foreign ministers.

But despite months of intense Ukrainian and Swiss lobbying, some others will not be there, most notably China, a key consumer of Russian oil and supplier of goods that help Moscow maintain its manufacturing base.

"This meeting is already a result," Zelenskiy said in Berlin on Tuesday, while acknowledging the challenge of maintaining international support as the war, now well into its third year, grinds on.

Ninety-two countries and eight organizations will attend, Switzerland said. Organizers preparing a joint statement have battled to strike a balance between condemning Russia's actions and securing as many participants as possible, diplomats say.

A final draft of the summit declaration refers to Russia's "war" against Ukraine, and also underlines commitment to the UN charter and respect for international law, according to two people familiar with the document.

Participants not in agreement with the declaration have until the end of Friday to opt out, the sources said.

The Swiss foreign ministry declined to comment.

Switzerland wants the summit to pave the way for a "future peace process" in which Russia takes part - and to determine which country could take on the next phase.

'FUTILE'

The idea of a summit was originally floated after Zelenskiy presented a 10-point peace plan in late 2022.

Ulrich Schmid, a political scientist and Eastern Europe expert at the University of St. Gallen, said the summit appeared to be "a mixed bag" so far, given the show of support from some quarters and China's absence.

"Then the question arises: is peace actually doable?" Schmid added. "As long as (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is in power... it will be difficult."

Putin said on Friday that Russia would cease fire and enter peace talks if Ukraine dropped its NATO ambitions and withdrew its forces from four Ukrainian regions claimed by Moscow. Kyiv has repeatedly said its territorial integrity is non-negotiable.

Russia, which sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, has described the idea of a summit to which it is not invited as "futile".

Moscow casts its "special military operation" in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees. Kyiv and the West say this is nonsense and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.

Given such entrenched differences, the summit will focus on parts of Zelenskiy's plan broad enough to be palatable to most, if not all, participants. These include the need to guarantee food security, nuclear safety, freedom of navigation, prisoner exchanges, and the return of children, officials said.

Meanwhile, China, along with Brazil, is pushing a separate peace plan for Ukraine that calls for the participation of both warring parties. Moscow has voiced its support for Beijing's efforts to end the conflict.

Kyiv has not hidden its frustration at China's decision to skip the Swiss summit. Zelenskiy even accused Beijing of helping Russia to disrupt it, an extraordinary outburst against a global superpower with unrivalled influence over Moscow.

On the battlefield, the gathering comes at a difficult time for Ukraine. Russian troops, who control around 18% of Ukrainian territory, are advancing in the east in a war that has killed tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, left villages, towns and cities in ruins and uprooted millions.