Aug 5, 2022 - Technology

Meta shuts down Russian troll farm linked to sanctioned Putin ally

Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin shows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin his school lunch factory outside Saint Petersburg on September 20, 2010.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. Photo: Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Thursday that it shut down a troll farm with links to a sanctioned Putin ally and Russia's Internet Research Agency that spread disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.

The big picture: The action was part of a wider social media crackdown on cyber espionage operations and other bad actors detailed in the Facebook and Instagram owner's Quarterly Adversarial Threat Report.

Driving the news: Meta said in the report that it detected a "physical troll farm operated out of an office building in St. Petersburg," known as Cyber Front Z, a month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, which targeted users on multiple platforms including Twitter and LinkedIn in addition to Facebook and Instagram.

  • Meta global threat intelligence lead Ben Nimmo said in a press call that Cyber Front Z "ran a Telegram channel that told people basically to leave pro-Russian comments on social media posts by public figures, journalists, politicians, celebrities, like Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman," per CBS News.
  • Cyber Front Z was banned from Meta's platforms in April and the company shut down 45 Facebook accounts and 1,037 Instagram accounts associated with the group, per the report.

Between the lines: The operation was linked to the sanctioned Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of "the bot-farm the Internet Research Agency," according to the British government.

Yes, but: Meta described Cyber Front Z's efforts as "clumsy and largely ineffective — definitely not 'A team' work."

Of note: Meta also shut down a South Asian espionage group called Bitter APT that "targeted people in New Zealand, India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom," according to the report.

Meanwhile, the company cracked down on "coordinated violating networks in Greece, India and South Africa."

Go deeper: The global business of professional trolling

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