Facebook has hundreds of fake Instagram accounts in Russia that tried to interfere with protests in the country. The company claims to have found a network of 530 accounts that “targeted a national audience throughout recent protests in support of Alexey Navalny,” the recently jailed Russian opposition leader.
Facebook says the people behind the network likely bought the accounts in an attempt to bypass the social network’s automated detection systems. The accounts in question used tactics that Facebook described as “hashtag poisoning” and “location poisoning”, meaning that they essentially spam the hashtags and location tags that were used by the protest organizers. .
Together, the Instagram accounts have gained around 55,000 followers and are often posted under hashtags such as #PutinLeave and #FreeNavalny. “This network posted memes in Russian, including about a Russian celebrity from TikTok, criticism of pro-Navalny protests, allegations that large numbers of minors attend rallies and also advertisements for clothes and bags. handbag for women, ”Facebook wrote in its report.
In a call with reporters, Facebook’s chief safety officer Nathaniel Gleicher stressed that simply engaging in hashtag poisoning is not against Facebook’s rules and that it is a tactic often used by activists and can be “an important part of the debate”. But using fake accounts to do so violates company rules against platform manipulation.
Facebook detailed the network in its latest report on coordinated inauthentic behavior on its platform. In addition to Instagram accounts, the company also found networks of fake accounts linked to Thailand, Morocco and Iran.