The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a UK think tank, has published a study on German-language disinformation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Facebook. The study shows that the online German-speaking communities of Covid-19 skeptics, anti-vaxxers, far-right and right-wing populists are more susceptible to Russian propaganda. According to the ISD study:
March 1, 2022 In this Digital Dispatch, we will share several trends that we observed in German-language Facebook groups during the days prior to Russia’s invasion, and in the days immediately after it. The persistence with which the Russian authorities have been trying to obtain a broadcasting license for its German-language TV channel RT DE (Russia Today Deutsch) highlight how important the German audience is for the Russian state. […] In mid-February, as the risk of a full-scale war started to grow, we decided to investigate how the same Facebook groups that had frequently shared COVID-19 videos by RT DE were discussing the situation, and what links and web domains they had been posting. […] As this study of Facebook groups has shown, online German-speaking communities of COVID-19 sceptics, anti-vaxxers, far-right and right-wing populists are among those more susceptible to Russian propaganda. In the months prior to Russia’s invasion, these communities – who were previously sharing RT DE COVID-19 misinformation on Facebook – began to share content from RT DE more frequently than any other news websites in their posts about Russia and Ukraine. Pro-Kremlin narratives from other websites are also being shared in these groups in the form of videos and links. This type of disinformation, which echoes Russian state lines without direct reference to Russian state media, will arguably not disappear after the official accounts of Russian state media are blocked from platforms.
Read the full study here.
The Global Influence Operations Report has previously reported on several studies examining susceptibility to Russian propaganda, and which have found :
- Ukrainians with stronger analytic reasoning skills are better insulated against Russian propaganda.
- Russian propaganda is particularly successful in Central and Western Balkan countries because of its post-communist legacy, pan-Slavism, the role of the Orthodox Church, and a deeply embedded culture of corruption.
- Serbia is the Eastern European country most susceptible to Russian and Chinese influence.
- Lithuanian counter-measures against Russian disinformation such as banning Russian broadcasters or creating media literacy projects made the Lithuanian population less susceptible to disinformation.
In March 2021, we reported that an EU study had found Germany is the main focus of Russian disinformation efforts in Europe. In May, we reported on a NATO study examining how Russia has used “information laundering processes” to spread its influence in the German media environment, targeting reporting about Covid-19, Alexei Navalny, and North Stream‑2.