What just happened? Ukrainian police have shut down another massive Russian-operated bot farm in the country that was being used to spread propaganda and fake news about the war across social networks. This isn’t the first such farm shuttered by Ukrainian cyber police (SSU), though it’s thought to be one of the biggest.
The SSU writes that the farm’s goal was to discredit Ukraine’s leadership and destabilize the country’s social and political situation. The group that created it, which the SSU has now dismantled, spread disinformation on the internet, some of which related to the activities of the country’s top military and political leadership.
The farm, operating secretly in the capital of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Vinnytsia, ran over one million bot accounts and several groups on social media networks with an audience of almost 400,000 people.
The SSU also found at least 5,000 SIM cards used to create and maintain fake social media accounts and 200 proxy servers to spoof IP addresses and avoid being blocked by websites. Special custom software was developed so the farm operators could automatically manage the accounts across the most popular social networks.
The agency says Russian special services also used the farm to spread misinformation about what was happening at the front and carry out “information subversive operations,” including claims of conflicts between President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top generals and a campaign to discredit the first lady.
The leader of the group behind the farm is a Russian citizen who has lived in Kyiv and positioned himself as a “political expert,” writes the SSU.
“The adversary tries to use any opportunity to fuel internal strife or manipulate public opinion. Unfortunately, consciously or unconsciously, some Ukrainian political forces play along with the enemy and put their own ambitions above state interests,” acting SSU Head Vasyl Malyuk said, adding that the people of Ukraine should not be influenced by pro-Russian manipulators.
Back in Mach, the SSU announced that since Russia invaded the country, it had identified and shut down five bot farms operating 100,000 social media accounts spreading fake news about the invasion. It has also neutralized over 1,200 cyber incidents and cyberattacks on government and strategic critical infrastructure.
The cyber police added that more than 500 pro-Russian YouTube channels with an audience of over 15 million subscribers have been blocked at the SSU’s request, and over 1,500 Telegram channels and bots, along with 1,500+ Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok accounts, have has been submitted for blocking.