German media reported last month that there has been a “massive increase” of pro-Russian propaganda being shared on German Telegram channels, some of which have amassed more than 145,000 subscribers. According to a report by Tagesschau:
April 22, 2022 In fact, pro-Russian channels have seen massive growth since the start of Russia’s war of aggression on February 24th. The think tank Center for Monitoring, Analysis and Strategy (CeMAS) evaluated several pro-Russian channels for the ARD magazine Monitor. These are channels such as “Russländer und Friends” or “Anti-Spiegel”. All have multiplied their subscriber numbers since the beginning of the war. The “Neues aus Russland” account, operated by the German Alina Lipp, has grown the most. On February 24, the Telegram channel still had 8,000 subscribers, and the day after that, more than twice as many. More than 130,000 people now follow the channel. Jan Rathje from CeMAS also sees one reason for the strong increase in the fact that the German Telegram channel of Russia Today was switched off at the beginning of March. “After the ban, you could see that there was a certain vacuum within the conspiracy-ideological milieu in order to get certain pro-Russian information.” Pro-Russian Telegram channels would have benefited from this. The channels, on the other hand, have also been heavily promoted in already-existing conspiracy-ideological channels, most of which also have a pro-Russian stance. Above all, the Kremlin’s propaganda is spread in the channels: Russia is fighting Nazis in Ukraine, the alleged war crimes in Bucha and Kramatorsk were not committed by Russian soldiers, and the city of Mariupol was “liberated” by the Russian army. [Translated with Google Translate]
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According to the Tagesschau report, the following Telegram channels are spreading pro-Russian propaganda in Germany:
- Russländer & Friends (56,300 subscribers)
- Anti-Spiegel (69,300 subscribers)
- Neues aus Russland (145,000 subscribers)
In March, European media reported that Telegram banned Kremlin-backed media outlets from using its platform within the EU. A Global Influence Operations Report investigation has found that many of these channels can still be accessed in Europe through third-party websites, reaching hundreds of thousands of people. These channels include:
- RT News (284,000 subscribers)
- RT en Español (187,000 subscribers)
- RT DE (68,000 subscribers)
- RT France (60,000 subscribers)
In March, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that Telegram was emerging as one of the more covert influence vehicles Russia would be relying upon in light of the shutdown of its state media operations in the West. Recent GIOR coverage of Telegram has included:
- In May, we reported that an antisemitic conspiracy theory is being shared on Telegram to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- In March, we reported that a Russian Telegram channel purporting to be a fact-checking service but, in reality, itself a major source of disinformation on the Ukraine conflict.
- In March, we reported how some of the unique aspects of Telegram are resulting in the social messaging app increasingly being used for influence purposes.