ArchivedSeptember 7 2022, 20:55 pm

Cloned Websites of Major German Media Brands Spread Pro-Russian Propaganda

Ger­man media is report­ing that web­sites of large Ger­man media brands have been recre­at­ed “in a decep­tive­ly real way”  and that hun­dreds of fake accounts have shared arti­cles by these fake web­sites on social media. The influ­ence oper­a­tion has been described as the “biggest pro-Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign to date.” Accord­ing to a ZDF report:

August 29, 2022 It is the biggest dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign to date: fake media sites spread pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da, hun­dreds of fake accounts share it en masse on social media. […]  Attempts to influ­ence pub­lic opin­ion in Ger­many with pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da have appar­ent­ly reached unprece­dent­ed lev­els. In a new, large-scale dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign, strangers have recre­at­ed web­sites of large media brands such as Bild, Welt, t‑online or Spiegel in a decep­tive­ly real way in order to pub­lish exact­ly such false news and fake videos. In a sec­ond step, an army of spe­cial­ly cre­at­ed fake accounts spread this fake news on social media. […] The tenor of most of the videos and reports: the sanc­tions against Rus­sia must end, oth­er­wise Ger­many will become impov­er­ished, there is a risk of hunger, peo­ple could freeze to death in win­ter, and the econ­o­my would col­lapse. The aim of the cam­paign: to unset­tle the pop­u­la­tion and cre­ate a mood against the sanc­tions. […] But even if many of the pages could be delet­ed — the videos are still cir­cu­lat­ing on social media and the coun­ter­feit­ers are con­stant­ly pro­vid­ing new sup­plies. The per­fidy: An army of prob­a­bly hun­dreds of fake pro­files on Face­book and Twit­ter spread the con­tent thou­sands of times. [Trans­lat­ed with Google Translate]

Read the full report here.

The report notes that many fake accounts push­ing the arti­cles had strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties. For instance, most pro­files were cre­at­ed in May and June 2022, most pro­file pic­tures were gen­er­at­ed by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, and many pro­files stat­ed “Net­flix” in their employ­er and edu­ca­tion information.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed about a net­work of auto­mat­ed web­sites spread­ing pro-Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion, which were con­struct­ed sim­i­lar­ly and pub­lished a high vol­ume of large­ly benign con­tent trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish, sourced from around the Inter­net. This time, how­ev­er, the pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da was spread through web­sites that looked exact­ly like the web­sites of big Ger­man out­lets such as Welt, Spiegel, or Bild, sug­gest­ing a pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion of Russ­ian disinformation.


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