Law enforcement in Ukraine claim to have dismantled a large bot farm used by the Russian special services to spread disinformation and propaganda within the country.
The Secret Service of Ukraine (SSU) said that an audience of over 400,000 Ukrainians were receiving misinformation from the million-strong bot farm. They claim that the content was used to “spin destabilising content” on the country’s military and political leadership.
The content included fake news regarding the situation at the front, a campaign to discredit the first lady, and an alleged conflict between the President’s Office and the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces.
A Russian citizen and ‘political expert’ based in Kyiv was unmasked as the leader of the operation. Equipment based in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Vinnystsia was used to automate the management of a large number of bot accounts across social media.
The set up included 5000 SIM cards used to register new accounts, as well as 200 proxy servers designed to spoof IP addresses and circumvent internet blocks.
Acting head of the SSU, Vasyl Malyuk, said “today, the information front is no less important than military operations. And Russia understands this very well – that’s why they throw such massive resources to divide Ukrainian society. Bot farms, pseudo-experts, information and psychological operations, enforcing pro-Russian messages – all this is in the enemy’s arsenal.”
“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. However, we are countering these destructive activities.”
In total, since the beginning of the invasion, Ukraine claims to have “neutralised” 1200 cyber-incidents and cyberattacks on government and strategic critical infrastructure.
Despite this, Russian propaganda efforts persist – both inside Ukraine and the wider public.