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As Social Media Platforms Tackle Disinformation, Russian Propaganda Campaigns Change Tactics

October 6th, 2021 14:24

UK media is report­ing that as the biggest west­ern social media com­pa­nies have tight­ened their poli­cies around dis­in­for­ma­tion on their plat­forms, Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da efforts have piv­ot­ed to find new tac­tics and out­lets. Accord­ing to the Finan­cial Times:

Sep­tem­ber 23, 2021 Since 2017, the biggest west­ern social media com­pa­nies have tried to tight­en their poli­cies around pro­pa­gan­da and dis­in­for­ma­tion on their plat­forms. Face­book said it had removed more than 6,000 Russ­ian-linked accounts, pages and groups from its main site and Insta­gram in that time peri­od. Twit­ter said it had banned more than 5,000 Russ­ian accounts since 2018 and YouTube said it had removed more than 2m Russ­ian videos since 2019.  Many of the banned posts and accounts have been linked to the inter­net Research Agency, the Krem­lin-backed group that was accused of using social media to try to influ­ence the out­come of the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, or to the GRU, Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence ser­vice.  In response, Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da and dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts have piv­ot­ed to find new out­lets, said Vasi­ly Gatov, a vis­it­ing fel­low at USC’s Annen­berg School of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Journalism. […]

Researchers at Cardiff Uni­ver­si­ty found that the read­er com­ment sec­tions of west­ern media out­lets such as the Dai­ly Mail, the Dai­ly Express, Fox News and Der Spiegel are increas­ing­ly being manip­u­lat­ed by pro­pa­gan­dists, who then point to pro-Krem­lin com­ments as evi­dence of sym­pa­thy for the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment in the west.  The com­ments are used as the basis for pos­i­tive news sto­ries in the Russ­ian media, such as the news web­site inoSMI.ru, with head­lines such as “Fox News read­ers: Rus­sians are afraid of no one” and “Ger­man read­ers: Rus­sians will always be one step ahead of Nato.”  InoSMI.ru is an online media out­let that trans­lates for­eign press arti­cles about Rus­sia and its inter­ests abroad, for Russ­ian-speak­ing audi­ences in Rus­sia and east­ern Europe. It is part of Rossiya Segod­nya, a news agency owned and oper­at­ed by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. It gar­ners about 270,000 unique vis­its per day and from Feb­ru­ary to April 2021, more than two-thirds of its arti­cles fol­lowed the “read­ers think” formula.

Read the rest here.

The FT arti­cle notes that con­tent from InoSMI.ru, in turn, gets repost­ed by an exten­sive inter­na­tion­al net­work of news sites across Europe, such as the PolitRussia and the Patri­ot Media Group, a con­glom­er­ate owned by Yevge­ny Prigozhin. A US grand jury indict­ed Prigozhin for orga­niz­ing activ­i­ties inter­fer­ing with the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial election.

In Sep­tem­ber, we report­ed that major West­ern media out­lets across 16 coun­tries had been tar­get­ed by a coor­di­nat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign post­ing pro-Russ­ian state­ments in the com­ment sec­tions of arti­cles rel­e­vant to Russia.