New Russia’s global propaganda network of fake sites and social accounts

Russia has invented yet another method of circulating false information about its invasion of Ukraine by employing technological trickery that enables its war propaganda videos to get through tech and governmental restrictions.

Russian propaganda ring in 18 languages discovered by Nisos

Researchers at Nisos, a U.S.-based intelligence company that tracks propaganda and misinformation and other cyber threats, said in a report published on October, 5 that accounts linked to Russian state-controlled media have used the special method to spread dozens of videos in 18 different languages without leaving any obvious telltale signs that would reveal the source.

Researchers from Nisos have found a brand-new Telegram account that acts as a video library for Russian propaganda material referring to the war in Ukraine. Each video had a separate language’s subtitles and captions, and hashtags were utilized to coordinate a multilingual outreach campaign for social media distribution. 

Further investigation found that the station was sponsored by Russia Today (RT), and Margarita Simonyan herself marketed the initiative as a “information militia” for audiences around the world. RT is a state-run, global news channel that is supported by the Russian government.

275 fake Twitter accounts spreading Russian disinformation

They followed the spread of the films on social media, concentrating mostly on Twitter, and found at least 275 accounts there promoting content in 18 different languages, with 123 of those accounts clearly displaying coordinated unauthentic activity. Strong connections to the official Russian ministry, embassy, and/or news accounts were also visible. 

Additionally, they discovered roughly a dozen accounts on atypical social networks including Gab, Getter, and Truth Social. Russia has direct access to millions of individuals through these media outlets that former President Donald Trump founded.

The films promote Kremlin conspiracy theories that attribute civilian casualties in Ukraine as well as assertions that locals in Russian-annexed territories have warmly welcomed their invaders.

Versions of the videos were also made in Spanish, Italian, German, and more than a dozen other languages, a sign of the Kremlin’s goals and the wide-ranging scope of its disinformation efforts.

With bans on RT and Sputnik, Russia creates new disinformation channels in the West

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, the European Union imposed a ban on RT and Sputnik, two of the most influential state-run media organizations in Russia. In order to hinder Russia’s capacity to disseminate its propaganda, tech giants like Google’s YouTube and Meta’s Facebook and Instagram also stated they will prohibit content within the 27-nations of the EU.

Nearly six months later, as Russia discovered ways to escape the ban, the number of websites promoting the same information has multiplied. To cover it up, they changed the brand of their work. They’ve given diplomats some of the propaganda responsibilities. Additionally, they copied and pasted a lot of the content onto brand-new websites that, up until this point, had no blatant links to Russia.

The most recent operation, as revealed by analysts at Nisos, entailed posting propaganda films to Telegram, a network that is widely used by conservatives in the US and Eastern Europe and is rarely regulated. In several instances, RT-specific watermarks were erased in an effort to conceal the source of the video.

New fake accounts worldwide much interested in Russian narratives

Some of the accounts appeared to use fictitious profile pictures or post content in odd ways, raising suspicions that they were phony.

One illustration is a Twitter account purportedly managed by a Japanese woman who had a particular interest in Russian propaganda. The account user solely posted Russian propaganda films, and not just in Japanese, but also in Farsi, Polish, Spanish, and Russian. Instead of posting about a variety of themes like leisure, cuisine, tourism, or relationships.

Researchers discovered that the account cited or reposted articles from Russian embassies hundreds of times, demonstrating once more the strong connection between Russian diplomats and the nation’s propaganda efforts.

Russia attempted to create a fictitious conspiracy theory this week accusing the United States of sabotaging the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

Russian fake sites imitate famous European news outlets

The same week, Meta revealed the existence of a vast Russian disinformation ring that operated websites imitating well-known European news organizations. The websites published propaganda instead of news in an effort to sour relations between Ukraine and its allies in the west.

More than 60 websites, including The Guardian newspaper in the UK and Der Spiegel in Germany, were used in the operation, all of which were designed to look like reputable news websites. The bogus websites, however, linked to Russian disinformation and propaganda about Ukraine rather than the news that those outlets actually covered. The misinformation was sent to audiences in Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine via more than 1,600 fraudulent Facebook pages.

According to analysts, that operation was the biggest of its sort to come from Russia since the war started.

On platforms including Facebook and Instagram, as well as Telegram and Twitter, links to the false news articles and other pro-Russian messages and videos were subsequently disseminated via the fake social media profiles. The network was operating all summer long.

Russia desperately attempts to spread its lies and propaganda in the light of bitter defeats in the war against Ukraine and sanctions imposed on its economy by the West to avoid or just to postpone its collapse.

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