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Hackers damaged Bulgarian fact-checking site

Bulgaria’s best-known fact-checking platform, Factcheck.bg, was hit by a cyberattack this weekend, but there is no information yet on who is behind it, the site’s management told Euractiv.

Due to the attack, numerous posts on Factcheck.bg, Facebook, as well as posts by the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria (AEJ), which runs the platform, were deleted. The platform told Euractiv:

“Problems with the sharing continued until the evening of September 22, and from that moment, the ability to share links to the pages of AEJ – Bulgaria, Scoolmedia.com and Media Lab began to be gradually restored on Facebook.”

Among the posts removed from Facebook were AEJ posts related to clashes between the chairman of the pro-Russian radical party Vazrazhdane Kostadin Kostadinov and independent liberal media in Bulgaria. Viral factchecking posts against pro-Russian disinformation campaigns on Facebook were also deleted.

Facebook automatically deleted posts by AEJ – Bulgaria, fact-checking platform Factcheck.bg, and sCoolmedia.com – a national platform for student journalism and learning platform Media Lab on Thursday morning.

The posts were removed due to cybersecurity, privacy policy or spam. A check of the sites revealed the presence of a suspicious plugin for WordPress, the platform on which the attacked sites run. The Association of European Journalists commented:

“At the moment, it cannot be established whether it is a simple attack with malicious software or a targeted one that would be related to the activities of Factcheck.bg and AEJ – Bulgaria.”

Meta’s official position on this issue has not yet been specified. It is also still unknown whether this is related to similar problems experienced by users of the platform in other parts of the world. During the Facebook attack, a video showing protesting grain farmers kicking out Kostadin Kostadinov, who tried to talk to them, was deleted.

Some Facebook users report that they can’t even see which of their posts have been deleted. They only receive a message that their posts do not meet community standards. The attack affects both current posts and those published months ago. Reports have been received that content has been taken from or linked to other fact-checking sites such as “AFP Check”.

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