Russia is accused of creating accounts of fake Ukrainians on social networks

Russian trolls have been caught creating fake Facebook accounts for citizens who hate Ukraine that don’t actually exist.

The social media giant said it deleted a batch of profiles, including those of a fictional aeronautical engineer and a guitar teacher gushing with anti-Kiev propaganda.

Both were revealed to have faces generated by artificial intelligence.

They were allegedly committed by two disinformation groups operating in Russia, as well as in Ukraine’s Russian-dominated regions of Donbass and Crimea.

Among the information shared is that Ukraine is a “failed state” and that President Volodymyr Zelensky is “building a neo-Nazi dictatorship”, as part of an attempt by Russia to undermine confidence in the Ukrainian government.

Another fake Ukrainian, Irina Kerimova from Kharkiv, has mismatched earrings - suggesting the image was AI-generated and doesn't exist

Russia has been accused of creating fake AI-generated Facebook and Twitter accounts of Ukrainians “who hate their country”. AI-generated photo of ‘Vladimir Bondarenko’ ‘has weird ears’ (left), while another fake Ukrainian has mismatched earrings (right)

The fake aeronautical engineer turned blogger was called Vladimir Bondarenko from Kiev, ‘who really hates the Ukrainian government” and even has quite a story.

“He was an aeronautical engineer, until he was forced to blog when Ukraine’s aviation infrastructure ‘collapsed,'” said NBC’s Ben Collins.

Another fake Ukrainian created by the AI, Irina Kerimova from Kharkiv, was a “private guitar teacher” until she supposedly became the editor of a Russian propaganda site called Ukraine Today.

Sensity, a service that detects fraudulent documents, also identified the AI ​​images as deepfakes

Sensity, a service that detects fraudulent documents, also identified the AI ​​images as deepfakes

META STATEMENT

“Over the past 48 hours, we discovered a relatively small network of around 40 accounts, pages and groups across Facebook and Instagram.

“They were operated from Russia and Ukraine and targeted people in Ukraine on multiple social media platforms and through their own websites.

“We removed this operation, blocked their domains from being shared on our platform, and shared information with other technology platforms, researchers, and governments.

“When we discontinued this network on our platform, there were less than 4,000 Facebook accounts following one or more of its pages and less than 500 accounts following one or more of its Instagram accounts.

“This network used fake accounts and exploited fictional characters and brands across the internet – including on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Odnoklassniki and VK – to appear more authentic in an apparent attempt to stand up to scrutiny. meticulous attention to platforms and researchers.

“These fictional characters used profile pictures likely generated using artificial intelligence techniques such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs).

“They claimed to be based in Kyiv and impersonated editors, a former aeronautical engineer and the author of a scientific publication on hydrography – the science of water mapping.

“This operation ran a handful of websites posing as independent news outlets, publishing allegations that the West is betraying Ukraine and Ukraine is a failed state.

“Our investigation is ongoing and so far we have found links between this network and another operation that we took down in April 2020, which we then connected to individuals in Russia, in the Donbass region of Ukraine and to two media organizations in Crimea – NewsFront and SouthFront, now sanctioned by the US government.

“Over the past few days, we have seen an increase in the targeting of people in Ukraine, including Ukrainian military and public figures by Ghostwriter, a threat actor who has been tracked by the security community for some time.”

Collins pointed out some flaws with the AI-generated photos of the fake Ukrainians, which were allegedly taken from ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com, an online tool that generates random fake faces.

For example, the photo of Vladimir Bondarenko “has weird ears”, while Irina Kerimova is shown with mismatched earrings.

Sensity, a service that detects fraudulent documents, also identified the AI ​​images as deepfakes.

These fake people were present on several platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Odnoklassniki and VK.

Meta, owner of Facebook, said it discovered a relatively small network of around 40 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram targeting Ukraine that had these fake profiles.

The company said, “We have removed this operation, blocked their domains from being shared on our platform, and shared information with other technology platforms, researchers, and governments.

“These fictional characters used profile pictures likely generated using artificial intelligence techniques such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs).

“They claimed to be based in Kyiv and impersonated editors, a former aeronautical engineer and the author of a scientific publication on hydrography – the science of water mapping.

“This operation ran a handful of websites posing as independent news outlets, publishing allegations that the West is betraying Ukraine and Ukraine is a failed state.”

Twitter said it also banned more than a dozen accounts sharing links to Ukraine Today.

The AI-generated profiles are actually just one of two anti-Ukraine disinformation campaigns that Meta has tackled.

While the AI-generated profiles are linked to Russia, the other operation has ties to a hacking group from Belarus with ties to the Belarusian government called Ghostwriter. Belarus aided the attack on Ukraine, led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in particular by allowing the Russian armed forces to carry out military exercises lasting several weeks on its territory.

This second Belarusian operation hacked into the accounts of real Ukrainian journalists, officials and other prominent figures “and released a video of Ukrainians waving a white flag of surrender,” Collins said.

Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, said: “Ghostwriter usually starts by compromising their targets’ email and then uses it to take control of their other accounts.

“That’s why it’s so important to enable two-factor authentication and use a password manager to avoid reusing passwords across the Internet.”

Meta, the company that owns Facebook, has removed anti-Ukrainian operations from its sites (file photo)

Meta, the company that owns Facebook, has removed anti-Ukrainian operations from its sites (file photo)

Russia's ongoing attack on Ukraine has been led by Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured)

Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine has been led by Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured)

According to Gleicher, the larger of the two disinformation groups — the former using fake AI profiles — operated in Russia, as well as in Ukraine’s Russian-dominated regions of Donbass and Crimea.

Gleicher told NBC that the propaganda campaign was able to “sow internet stories that Ukraine is not doing well” by “impersonating Kiev-based journalists.”

“The good news is that none of these campaigns have been as effective, but we see these players trying to target Ukraine at this point,” Gleicher said.

“These actors try to undermine trust in the Ukrainian government, suggest it is a failed state, suggest the war is going very badly in Ukraine, or try to praise Russia.”

UKRAINE WAR: THE LAST

  • Russian paratroopers land in Ukraine’s second city amid heavy fighting
  • ‘There are practically no more areas in Kharkiv where an artillery shell has not hit yet’: Interior Ministry official
  • Joe Biden calls Vladimir Putin a ‘dictator’ in his annual State of the Union address as he bans Russian planes from US airspace
  • Russia steps up its bombing campaign and missile strikes, hitting Kiev’s main TV tower, two residential buildings in a town west of the city and the town of Bila Tserkva south of the capital
  • Russian forces enter the besieged city of Kherson in the southern Black Sea
  • Russian attacks leave Mariupol, another Black Sea port farther west without power
  • More than 677,000 people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, according to the UN refugee agency
  • The UN’s International Court of Justice announces it will hold public hearings on March 7 and 8 into Russia’s alleged ‘genocide’ of Ukraine
  • Russia blocks independent TV channel and liberal radio station, tightening virtual media blackout
  • A series of Western companies announce that they are freezing or reducing their activities with Russia
  • Russians rush to cash out after capital controls were introduced and as the ruble hits record highs
  • Russian company Nord Stream 2 goes insolvent after Germany shuts down pipeline following Moscow invasion
  • Oil prices rise above $110 a barrel, despite deals to release 60 million barrels of inventory
  • World Bank prepares $3 billion aid package for Ukraine, including $350 million in immediate funds

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