Virtual roundtable “Covid-19 and the Chinese and Russian disinformation campaigns”
Analysts uncovered yet another Russian disinformation campaign – fakes were spread through; disposable social media accounts
For six years, Russian agents have flooded the Internet with fake stories in seven languages across 300 social networks as part of a disinformation campaign, while remaining virtually unnoticed..
This is the conclusion reached by researchers of social networks.
The operation, which the researchers dubbed “Secondary Infection,” aimed to spread pro-Russian propaganda around the world through fake tweets allegedly published by US officials and coronavirus conspiracy theories..
In addition, campaigners tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Researchers suggest they will also try to spread lies in connection with the US elections this November..
Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at analyst firm Graphika, which conducted the research, told National Public Radio (NPR) that specific performers in Russia remain elusive..
“We do not know if this campaign was carried out by the government, or by structures associated with the government, or by a group that wanted to support the government,” Nimmo said. “But from the general tone and context, it can be understood that this was an operation that tried to support the Russian government by attacking and discrediting its critics.”.
Facebook security revealed the campaign last May and has since been attempted by the tech giant and other platforms to block it..
But the campaign is so decentralized that it still continues, although, according to researchers, after the group was exposed, its activity decreased..
Researchers working with security officials from Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies have identified over 2,500 elements of disinformation related to the same Russian subjects.
Virtually every fake story campaigners tried to spread quickly faded, suggesting that they were more likely to take on in quantity than in scope..
“And this is an important reminder that although, yes, there is misinformation on the Internet, the fact that it is false does not mean that it will fly at lightning speed,” Nimmo said..
The study also revealed new tactics for spreading disinformation, he said..
Rather than focusing on a few popular platforms and gaining a large following, Operation Secondary Infection did the opposite..
They created so-called disposable accounts, spread some one false information through Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or other social networks, and then completely abandoned these accounts and never returned to them..
Editor-in-chief of the online edition Insider Roman Dobrokhotov in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America, he said that soon his publication and Bellingcat will publish a special investigation on how the work of spreading disinformation with the participation of the special forces of the GRU took place. According to him, it was a systematic, long-term work, deployed since 2013-2014..
“But, of course, it has been especially active recently,” he said. – Today, in addition to various traditional disinformation tools, new ones are also used. The propaganda octopus has grown to incredible proportions, uniting the intelligence services, state television corporations, and all sorts of troll factories, which, among other things, work for a foreign audience. Plus, hackers who work for the state, while hacking certain accounts of journalists and politicians, in order to then use the obtained information again for some kind of misinformation stuffing. “.
This is a well-oiled system, which employs thousands of people, says Roman Dobrokhotov. In his opinion, it is much more sophisticated than in the era of the Soviet Union..
“At the same time, the effectiveness of such work remains rather low,” he added. – The only exhaust it has abroad is that the relevant information is thrown to the marginal circles, which are prone to conspiracy theories, and the nationalists. But this only works in situations where society is very divided, when the situation is balancing on the verge of 50:50. Then even small-scale stuffing can play the role of a fatal weight on the scales. A similar situation was, for example, in the UK during the Brexit vote and during the presidential elections in the United States “.
But still, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the action of Russian propaganda is ineffective, summed up the editor-in-chief of the online edition Insider.
“All Putin’s policies are aimed at creating trouble for other countries”
In turn, a sociologist and publicist, former secretary general of the Union of Journalists of Russia Igor Yakovenko also stated that, as he put it, “Putin’s under-empire” is now trying in various ways to influence the situation in the world, and above all to carry out a destructive effect on the countries of Europe and the United States.
“The problem stems from the fact that the self-awareness of Putin and his entourage is still Soviet,” he said in a commentary to the Russian service of Voice of America. – They perceive Russia as a superpower, and its opportunities are completely different. In reality, the Russian Federation is located on the periphery of the world; it does not occupy any high positions either in the economy or in politics. So the inadequacy of perception forces the Kremlin to use semi-criminal or outright criminal methods – such as sabotage, in some cases – terror, in some cases – military intervention. Well, fakes have become an indispensable side dish for an ordinary dish “.
All Putin’s policies are aimed at creating trouble for other countries, says Igor Yakovenko. It seems to him that the regime simply has no other policy..
“Because there are no resources,” he explained. – Today Putin has no ideology. This is the fundamental difference between his regime, say, from the Soviet or fascist. The presidential entourage is trying to give birth to something similar to an ideology, but to no avail. Putin does not have his own picture of the future, which was present in all, even the most disgusting ideologies, be it fascism or communism. He has only a mythology based on past achievements – in particular, on the victory in World War II “.
This is connected with the fact that the Kremlin is trying to throw mud at those countries that have a system of values, this is the fundamental basis of Putin’s policy, the journalist concluded..
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