Sneaky, Sneaky! How Russian State-Controlled Media Boris and Natasha’d Their Way Around Meta’s Post-Ukraine Invasion Restrictions

I’m awfully tired, but I wanted to make sure I put this one up as soon as I saw it. I’ll likely return to this — and i’ll possibly deleted this post with a more understandable explanation later.

Here goes.

TL;DR: A quick note about some shenanigans I discovered today with Sputnik pages on Facebook. Have the managers of Sputnik’s Facebook pages found a way to go around Meta’s state-controlled media warning messages? Two popular Sputnik pages sure make it seem like this is the case…

Sputnik, a Russian government backed media outlet, is a Soviet-style dis and misinformation outfit.

Today, I was going through and looking at the Sputnik pages on Facebook, and I noticed something unusual. I believe that this is possibly an issue that rises to the level of alerting the security folks at Meta.

I won’t bore you with the details of what Sputnik is. If you are reading this post, you likely are already aware. You’re also likely aware that Sputnik’s content was so odious that the E.U. banned them, and Meta is supposed to have applied error messaging for any user access their content.

Anyways, with Sputnik, Meta applied a “Leaving Facebook” error message for any user that access a Sputnik url from a Sputnik Facebook page.

Take a look at the one when trying to access the url of a Sputnik web page featured on the “about” section of a Sputnik Czechia page targeting Czechs:

An error message provided by Facebook when attempting to navigate towards a Sputnik domain.

Clear and concise!

Meta also puts the error message up users who click on articles from Sputnik domains:

Error message presented to Facebook users who click on article from a Sputnik domain.

This has been very effective, and from what I can tell, a great many Sputnik pages have stopped sharing links altogether — they just share brief little posts about the news.

But, you’ll be surprised by what I found with two popular Sputnik pages on Facebook.

Sputnik France and Sputnik Mundo — two Sputnik pages with large followings on Facebook. These two accounts are doing something fishy…

Sputnik France (536K likes — 780K followers) and Sputnik Mundo (444K likes — 628K followers) have done a little tomfoolery! They have no error messages (that I can find) when a Facebook user receives when they click on articles they share.

Sputnik Mundo looks to have recently changed their URL from mundo.sputniknews.com to a new gTLD.

A Wayback Machine capture shows that Sputnik Mundo just migrated over to a new .lat (Latin) domain.

They moved it to a .lat (latin america) gTLD at https://sputniknews.lat/20200928/la-vacuna-sputnik-v-se-aplica-a-5000-voluntarios-sin-efectos-colaterales-sustanciales-1092923810.html

So what you ask?

With Sputnik France and Sputnik Mundo, you can just head on through. No error messaging from Meta.

Take a look:

A Sputnik article shared by Sputnik Mundo’s page on Facebook. Clicking on this link is supposed to bring up an error (or confirmation) message regarding movement towards RU state-controlled media.
But nothing! No error message. Like Jim Morrison, you’ve broken on through to the other side.

Here’s the news story: beyond the fact of gTLDs being beyond worthless, it’s interesting to see the shenanigans they are trying. Plus, if I can access these without the error message, I am guessing EU citizens are able to access Sputnik France and Sputnik Mundo in violation of the EU decision regarding the limiting of access to Sputnik by E.U. citizens. Wouldn’t this (unfettered access to Sputnik France and Sputnik Mundo content) be an embarrassment for the EU and Meta if this is happening?

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