The fake bills and fake news agencies that develop conspiracy theories and medical advice on snake oil do what opportunistic shillings always do: talk about what everyone is talking about, try to mislead people through phishing, other scams or operations to influence public opinion.
The crisis they’re using now is, of course, the Covid 19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, when Facebook released its third report on coordinated, non-general conduct (CIB), it said that each of the eight networks it destroyed in April had been in place before the COWID 19 pandemic. Even before the seriousness of the pandemic was recognised worldwide, threatening actors were already threatening with their police activities with the aim of robbing people, spreading conspiracy theories or influencing political discourse. But once the disease had taken its place as the world’s most important global warning, the people behind the campaigns all went to work to get on the coronavirus train:
… opportunistic messages [with] coronaviruses, among other things to build an audience and push people to their sites or off-platform sites.
Most of the networks shut down on Facebook last month were still trying to expand their audience, or had most of the fake commitments on their sites – commitments that came from their own fake network accounts.
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook’s security policy, said it was all in line with the headers policy:
We have seen how threat actors use and discuss the coronavirus pandemic, just as we have seen how threat actors use other types of major events in the world.
One of the crises that comes to mind is the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011 – a terrible tragedy that was exploited by fraudsters through false charity scams, spam that gave rise to malware and click-jack scams in which a whale was thrown into a building.
In other words, it’s false news about the year of Kovid-19.
Last month, Facebook destroyed a total of 1,887 fraudulent accounts, pages and groups that it tracked down on eight networks. It indicates that two networks – from Russia and Iran – have coordinated their illicit behaviour on behalf of a foreign or state actor. The other six networks – in the United States, Georgia, Myanmar and Mauritania – focused on their domestic audience.
Facebook constantly takes action against non-marital behaviour, including false promises, spam and artificial reinforcement. However, the CIB report focuses primarily on influencing trade: what Facebook describes as a coordinated attempt to manipulate the public debate to achieve a strategic goal, with counterfeit accounts at the heart of the work.
In April, the platform wrote a total of 732 Facebook accounts, 162 Instagram accounts, 793 pages and 200 groups.
Largest network: Georgia
The largest Facebook network, which was abolished last month, was set up in Georgia and is linked to a media company called Esmena. The platform deleted 511 pages, 101 Facebook accounts, 122 groups, and 56 Instagram accounts linked to the network that focused on activities in the home country.
Facebook has also removed a small network in Georgia: The network consisted of 23 Facebook accounts, 80 pages, 41 groups and 9 Instagram accounts. He connected this small network with people from the United National Movement, a political party.
The Netherlands Atlantic Association’s Digital Forensics Research Laboratory (@DFRLab) – a digital forensic network to combat misinformation – has been following the Esmena network for some time now. The DFRLab claims that the accounts/pages/groups of the Esmene Coordinated Network claimed to be Georgian health authorities and members of the political opposition and tried to discredit pro-democracy activists and members of the opposition party.
According to Facebook, people who work online have also published pages designed to look like user profiles, using fake names and photos from the shared profiles to publish and enhance their content and prevent detection and deletion. Some of their sites were independent news agencies publishing content on national news and political issues such as elections, government policy and officials, as well as opposition critics, journalists and local activists.