Anti-Ukraine Political ads targeting France

10 Jun 2024 | Reports

Authors:

Saman Nazari, Alliance4Europe.

William Early, Alliance4Europe.

This Flash report was made possible through a collaboration facilitated by the EU Election ISAC.

What is the ISAC?

The ISAC is an initiative to create a collaboration between European organisations and independent researchers to monitor attacks against the EU elections. Participants range from civil society organisations, universities, think tanks, journalists, independent researchers and fact-checkers. Our community consists of more than 30 organisations and 70 researchers.

Note: this report contains un-archived links. We have found no reliable way to archive Facebook links.

Summary:
Two unlabelled Meta ads targeting French audiences with anti-Ukraine messages were posted on June 7 and 8.

The ads accuse President Zelenskyy of corruption and question his legitimacy as the leader of Ukraine.

These ads are no longer active but were targeting Facebook, Instagram, Meta  Audience Network, and Messenger platforms. They had also not been correctly labelled as political ads in line with Meta’s guidelines.

The ads had reached around 10,000 users in France before we alerted Meta who took them down.  

Incident

On June 7th and 8th, the Facebook page Pin-Up Aviator launched two ads (1, 2 – Not archived) linking to two articles on the website uncensoredbeat.com.


Image 1: An advert questioning the political legitimacy of Zelensky.

The articles have the titles: “Suspension of Ukranian Elections Questions Legitimacy of Zelenskyy’s Rule” (3) and “Funding Ukraine: An Unnecessary Evil” (4) and are both in English.

Image 2: Image of the first page of the website hosting the two articles.

The ad campaign coincides with the French European Parliament elections on June 8-9. The website is fully anonymous and was created on 2024-04-28. The two and only articles published on the website were published on May 18. It is unknown who is behind the website or attack, but it displays similar behaviour to the Russian Doppelgänger operation. The ads are not labelled as social issues, elections or political advertisements, likely going against Meta’s advertisement policy.

Image 3: An advert undermining the provision of financial aid to Ukraine

The ads beneficiary and payer are set to Алина Горюнова. A page was created on May 13 with the same name (5). 

Image 4-5: The Beneficiary and Payer of the ads and the profile correlating with the name.

The images of the Алина Горюнова profile come from a participant in the TV show The Bachelors, Leonie Magx (6, 7). The page was created on May 13 and is currently not posting anything political.

Image 6-7: Images from Leonie Magx’s profile. Image one is the profile picture of the Алина Горюнова profile. Image 2 is the banner image of the Алина Горюнова profile. 

The articles also contain an embedded YouTube video with a text-to-speech version of the article (8, 9).

 

Narratives:

The articles linked to these adverts present the narrative that Zelensky is violating the Ukrainian constitution and is an undemocratic, unelected president. By virtue of this, it is suggested in (3) that “It also raises questions as to why the US should continue offering financial support”.

In a manner similar to the way pro-Russian faux peace movements in Europe shift the responsibility for the Ukrainian conflict onto Ukraine and the West, these article(s) shift the lens off of Russia’s own autocracy and focus it onto Ukraine. By leveraging supposed “Democratic values”, they undermine continued Ukrainian resistance and Western support, whilst also diminishing the narrative of Russia as an aggressive dictatorship vying for land.

Impact

The Facebook posts that were amplified through ads received 73 likes, 13 shares, and 98 comments.

The Meta ads (10, 11 – Not archived), reached at least 10.000 users in France.

Key Objectives and Behaviours (DISARM Red Framework):

Objective: 

Smear – smearing the reputation of a political candidate

Behaviours:

Deliver ads – the campaign was delivering its operational content using ads. Does not have any organic reach.

Manipulate Platform Algorithim – avoiding the use of keywords that could trigger Meta’s automated moderation

Direct users to alternative platforms – the operational content is on the website itself, not in the posts, further circumventing Meta’s automated content moderation

Create Inauthentic Websites – create uncensoredbeat.come, a webpage posing as a media website (12).

Recommendations:

Action taken: Ads were reported to Meta and European government entities 09/04/2024 14:00

Outcome:

After our reporting, the adverts and page Pin-Up Aviator have been taken down by META.