In light of the closures and other actions directed against Russian-backed media outlets in the west, it is clear that Russia will be forced to increasingly exploit other, more covert vehicles for its influence operations. The Stanford Internet Observatory, affiliated with Stanford University, has analyzed several such vehicles described as “grey propaganda outlets, unattributed pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, and inauthentic social media accounts.” According to the Stanford post:
In this post we first discuss overlap in narratives we have observed on Russian state media, grey propaganda outlets, and unattributed pro-Kremlin Telegram channels. Second, we build on reporting by Adam Rawnsley in The Daily Beast by investigating low-engagement inauthentic social media accounts spreading pro-Kremlin messaging, including a novel persona primarily focused on sharing memes about the Iwo Jima Memorial who also occasionally spreads divisive content about Ukraine and the U. S. We document these activities not because we want to amplify falsehoods, but to raise awareness about an ongoing tactic for researchers. Connection between overt propaganda themes and Telegram channel narratives Over the past two weeks the Stanford Internet Observatory has been monitoring narratives related to the developing situation in Ukraine. Analysts have been observing overt channels, such as Russian state media, as well as grey propaganda outlets and unattributed Telegram channels. We observe that the narratives that state media and grey propaganda outlets push can be found on unattributed Telegram channels, and that in some instances the version of the narrative on the Telegram channels is more extreme. In this post we discuss some of the themes that appear across the propaganda spectrum.
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In October of last year, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that Russian state media outlets Sputnik and RT were expanding their social media presence to Telegram. However, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, EU countries have begun to shut down the official Telegram channels of Russian-backed media such as RT (formerly known as Russia Today.) This will only likely hasten the shift of these media influence operations to the unattributed pro-Kremlin telegram channels.
Earlier this week, we reported that Facebook had taken down 40 profiles tied to Russian/Belarusian disinformation operation, saying the profiles were a small part of a larger persona-building operation that spread across Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, and Russian social networks.
In April 2021, we reported on an interview of an employee of a “post-Soviet troll farm.” The interviewee described how the trolls used Telegram and other social media platforms as part of the overall crackdown on dissent, presumably in Russia.