April 28 2022, 12:30 pm

How Russia Uses Its Embassies to Spread Disinformation about the Ukraine War

UK media is report­ing that Russ­ian embassies and con­sulates around the world are using Face­book, Twit­ter, and oth­er plat­forms pro­lif­i­cal­ly to deflect blame for atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the Russ­ian army in Ukraine. Accord­ing to a report by The Inde­pen­dent, the Russ­ian embassies in the UK and Mex­i­co are espe­cial­ly active in churn­ing out such pro­pa­gan­da and disinformation:

April 20, 2022 With hun­dreds of social media accounts on every con­ti­nent, Russia’s diplo­mat­ic corps acts as a glob­al net­work for pro­pa­gan­da, in which the same claims can be recy­cled and tweaked for dif­fer­ent audi­ences in dif­fer­ent nations. And, so far, steps to sub­stan­tial­ly cur­tail that effort have fall­en short. […] Some Russ­ian embassies, like ones in the U.K. and Mex­i­co, for exam­ple, are espe­cial­ly active, churn­ing out pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da and spread­ing false­hoods intend­ed to sup­port the inva­sion.  The Russ­ian mis­sile attack on a Ukrain­ian rail sta­tion that killed 50? Ukraini­ans were behind it, the Russ­ian Embassy in the U.K. tweet­ed. Talk of Russ­ian war crimes? It’s a plot by Britain to make Rus­sia look bad, the embassy claimed. Those Ukrain­ian sol­diers fight­ing for their coun­try? They’re actu­al­ly Nazis oper­at­ing under U.S. orders, the embassy alleged.  The Russ­ian Embassy in Lon­don tweet­ed out those and oth­er con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries all on one day last week. Each post received hun­dreds or thou­sands of retweets, com­ments and likes, includ­ing dozens from oth­er Twit­ter users push­ing back on the propaganda.

Read the rest here.

Accord­ing to a report by The Times, the Russ­ian embassy in Ire­land has pub­lished a vari­ety of false sto­ries on sub­jects rang­ing from the bomb­ing of a mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal in Mar­i­upol to the mur­der of civil­ians around Bucha:

April 6, 2022 The Russ­ian embassy in Dublin is being used to spread dis­in­for­ma­tion to under­mine cov­er­age that expos­es appar­ent war crimes com­mit­ted by its armed forces in Ukraine.  The offi­cial Twit­ter and Face­book pages run by the embassy have pub­lished a vari­ety of false sto­ries on sub­jects rang­ing from the bomb­ing of a mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal in Mar­i­upol to the mur­der of civil­ians around Bucha, a city to the north­west of Kyiv, the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal. In a video shared on Twit­ter, it described the cir­cu­la­tion of images of mur­dered civil­ians in Bucha as anoth­er provo­ca­tion and a hoax. The video accused the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary of “crack­ing down” on its own cit­i­zens sus­pect­ed of col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Russ­ian military.

Read the rest here.

Ger­man media report­ed recent­ly that the Russ­ian embassy in Berlin’s Face­book account is one of sev­er­al accounts spread­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion with­out any consequences:

April 8, 2022 The Russ­ian embassy’s Face­book page is just one of many accounts that spread dis­in­for­ma­tion rel­a­tive­ly unmo­lest­ed — since the begin­ning of the war of aggres­sion, the reach of oth­er rel­e­vant pages has also increased, accord­ing to ana­lyzes by NDR, WDR and SZ. “The West is the real aggres­sor,” says a video on anoth­er site that has been viewed about half a mil­lion times. “Rus­sia is not at war” in anoth­er that has been viewed 200,000 times. There are also videos from the pro­pa­gan­da chan­nel “Rus­sia Today”, which was actu­al­ly banned from Face­book. Uploaded from pri­vate accounts, they are some­times viewed hun­dreds of thou­sands of times — with­out warn­ing of incor­rect infor­ma­tion. [Trans­lat­ed with Google Translate]

Read the rest here.

Anoth­er report by Politi­co cites EU offi­cials say­ing that the lev­el of dis­in­for­ma­tion now being shared by Moscow’s offi­cial social media accounts rep­re­sents a “par­a­digm shift in how Rus­sia push­es its false nar­ra­tives.” Accord­ing to the report, Rus­sia now bor­rows heav­i­ly from China’s so-called “wolf-war­rior” diplomacy:

April 7, 2022 In many ways, Moscow now bor­rows heav­i­ly from Bei­jing’s own for­eign pol­i­cy play­book, which has relied on so-called wolf war­rior West­ern-aimed social media accounts from Chi­nese diplo­mats to spread its mes­sag­ing around the world. These offi­cials quick­ly jump on any per­ceived slight against Chi­na, as well as pro­mote often false mes­sag­ing about the coun­try’s actions around the world.  The switch has been swift and dra­mat­ic, coin­cid­ing with EU sanc­tions against RT and Sput­nik, as well social media com­pa­nies’ deci­sions to lim­it how these state-backed media out­lets can share their con­tent online. With the end of the war in Ukraine unclear — and Rus­si­a’s iso­la­tion on the world stage like­ly to remain — West­ern offi­cials said this new use of diplo­mat­ic accounts to aggres­sive­ly push dis­in­for­ma­tion would like­ly become the new normal.

Read the rest here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report report­ed last month that offi­cial Russ­ian gov­ern­ment accounts are exploit­ing a Twit­ter loop­hole to spread dis­in­for­ma­tion through a coor­di­nat­ed retweet net­work, although coor­di­nat­ed activ­i­ty is against Twitter’s rules. We have also report­ed that there has been a clear over­lap between pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da and gen­uine Chi­nese offi­cials ampli­fy­ing it on Twitter.


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