Ukraine has dismantled a huge network of pro-Russian bots

Ukraine has dismantled a huge network of pro-Russian bots

This week the Security Service of Ukraine (Sbu) shut down a bot farm - a coordinated system of purpose-oriented bots - located in Kyiv, which was spreading pro-Russian propaganda through social media. The news was given by the Sbu himself with a post on his website, dated August 2.

The system consisted of about five thousand sim cards and two hundred proxy servers. All these elements allowed pro-Kremlin hacktivists to create fake IP addresses and consequently fake social profiles. In all, more than a million bots have been created. According to the Ukrainian security service, the goal of the propaganda operation was to "discredit the Ukrainian leadership and destabilize the socio-political situation." Behind the operation there would be a Russian citizen residing in Kyiv, who presented himself as "Political expert".

Disinformation campaigns have targeted key figures in Ukrainian politics: there have been attempts to defame Olena Zelenska, wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky, and to spread false news about an alleged clash between the head of state and the military leaders of the country.

The SBU also reported that the bot farm's activities were coordinated by a person "belonging to the inner circle of a former leader of the country". Although the security service has not named any person or political party, some Ukrainian media have speculated that he may be a member of European Solidarity, led by former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. The party, however, denies any involvement. European Solidarity executive Iryna Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook that "the media refer to unspecified and anonymous sources" and that their behavior "violates journalistic standards". Meanwhile, the Ukrainian police investigation continues.

Since the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian security service has dismantled several bot networks: in the month of March alone, five bot farms, which managed 100,000 fake profiles, were closed. Since the early stages of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the sides have also opposed on the cyber level, with hundreds of thousands of hackers hired by Ukraine to stop Russian cyberattacks and propaganda in the Kremlin on the one hand, and pro-Russian criminal organizations such as Killnet who storm the countries that have sided with Kyiv on the other with cyber attacks.