Russian agency created fake leftwing news outlet with fictional editors, Facebook says

Russian agency created fake leftwing news outlet with fictional editors, Facebook says

Internet Research Agency also hired real, unwitting freelance reporters in operation Facebook has removed

The Russian agency that interfered in the 2016 US election created a fake leftwing news publication, staffed it with fake editors with AI-generated photos and hired real freelance reporters as part of a fresh influence operation detected and removed by Facebook, the company said on Tuesday.

The latest operation by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) was still in its early stages when it was detected thanks to a tip from the FBI, according to Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher. The network had 13 accounts and two pages, with about 14,000 total followers.

The Facebook accounts and pages were designed to bolster PeaceData.net, an English- and Arabic-language website that claims to be a “global news organization”, but whose editorial staff are fictitious. Headshots of PeaceData’s “staff” were created using Generative Adversarial Networks, a type of AI that can produce lifelike images of faces, according to Graphika, a social media analysis firm that produced a report on the IRA operation.

“They put substantial effort into creating elaborate fictitious personas, trying to make fake accounts look as real as possible,” Gleicher said.

Many of the characters had profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter said on Tuesday that it had suspended five accounts associated with PeaceData for “platform manipulation that we can reliably attribute to Russian state actors”. The company said tweets from the accounts were “low quality” and “spammy”, and that it would block links to content from PeaceData. LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a query.Praise for alleged Kenosha shooter proliferates on Facebook despite supposed banRead more

Much of PeaceData’s content was copied from other websites, though some was produced by unwitting freelance reporters. Advertisements on Upwork and Guru.com offered a flat rate of $75 to entry-level writers. Major topics for the site included armed conflict, human rights abuses (especially by the US and UK), corruption, and the environment, as well as WikiLeaks, the coronavirus pandemic and the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.