Campaigning for Ukraine’s presidential election had just begun to heat up when the authorities announced they had thwarted a Russian plot to use Facebook to undermine the vote.
Unlike the 2016 interference in the United States, which centered on fake Facebook pages created by Russians in faraway St. Petersburg, the operation in Ukraine this year had a clever twist. It tried to circumvent Facebook’s new safeguards by paying Ukrainian citizens to give a Russian agent access to their personal pages.
In a video confession published by the S.B.U., Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, a man it identified as the Russian agent said that he resided in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, and that his Russian handlers had ordered him “to find people in Ukraine on Facebook who wanted to sell their accounts or temporarily rent them out.”
“As I learned,” said the man, who was not identified by name, “their goal was to use those accounts to publish political ads or to plant fake articles.”