The weaponization of Facebook started long before the US elections in 2016, but only after that incident did the social network’s management actually take the matter seriously, writes the Washington Post, based on an external investigation.
Hateful speech and fake accounts formed part of Russian propaganda dating back to its conflicts with Ukraine, and were a key tactic in destabilizing the political environment in the country at the time. According to the investigation, the same strategy was used later in the US elections, although a number of attempts were made in 2015 by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to reach out to Facebook and put an end to Russian trolls.
As confirmed by Twitter, social media networks abounded in fake accounts spreading hate speech and propaganda to instill fear and doubt in people to divide society and meddle in political systems. The investigation revealed that Russian trolls hired actors to film videos with misinformation about the Ukrainian administration and promote the occupation of some areas in Ukaine.
The Washington Post writes that Dmytro Shymkiv, at the time deputy minister of the presidential administration, informed Facebook that Russian troll farms were actively interfering to weaken the country, which was already in a fragile state.
“I was explicitly saying that there are troll factories, that their posts and reposts promoted posts and news that are fake,” Dmytro Shymkiv said. “They are promoted on your platform. By very often fake accounts. Have a look.”
“The tactics identified by officials, such as coordinated activity to overwhelm Facebook’s system and the use of impostor accounts, are the same as in the 2016 contest — and continue to challenge Facebook ahead of next month’s midterm elections,” concludes The Washington Post.