July 13 2022, 15:22 pm

Pro-Russian Telegram Channels Vastly Outperforming Channels Critical of Kremlin

US think tank The DFR­Lab is report­ing that Russ­ian pro-Krem­lin Telegram chan­nels have been able to increase their sub­scriber base sub­stan­tial­ly faster than neu­tral or crit­i­cal chan­nels that broad­cast reli­able infor­ma­tion about the war in Ukraine. Accord­ing to the arti­cle:

May 13, 2022 A study con­duct­ed by Mega­fon, one of largest mobile phone oper­a­tors in Rus­sia found that Telegram’s pop­u­lar­i­ty in Rus­sia start­ed to grow rapid­ly fol­low­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine at the end of Feb­ru­ary. Their analy­sis sug­gest­ed that Telegram’s share of total traf­fic by mes­sag­ing apps reached 63 per­cent in the first two weeks of March, up from 48 per­cent in the first two weeks of February.

Read the rest here.

A DFR­Lab analy­sis showed that 38 out of the 50 most viewed posts by the top 50 Russ­ian Telegram news chan­nels were pub­lished by accounts push­ing pro-Krem­lin mes­sages. In con­trast, only three posts from the same pool were pub­lished by neu­tral or tabloid Telegram chan­nels. From 1 Jan­u­ary 2022 until 13 April 2022, posts from pro-Krem­lin chan­nels gar­nered almost 60 mil­lion views and more than 4,450 for­wards to oth­er chan­nels, while posts from neutral/tabloid chan­nels gar­nered only less than four mil­lion views and around 150 shares dur­ing the same obser­va­tion win­dow. The DFR­Lab also exam­ined the top 50 Telegram chan­nels with the high­est num­ber of new sub­scribers in 2022 and found that 31 were pro-Krem­lin, with a cumu­la­tive growth of over 12 mil­lion new subscribers.

Telegram is emerg­ing as one of the more impor­tant influ­ence vehi­cles relied upon by Rus­sia in light of the shut­down of its state media oper­a­tions in the West, hav­ing unique aspects that posi­tion it as a vehi­cle for suc­cess­ful dis­in­for­ma­tion. Accord­ing to the New York Times, in 2018, the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment tried to ban Telegram after the com­pa­ny had defied gov­ern­ment orders to allow Russ­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices access to user data, but the gov­ern­ment lacked the tech­ni­cal means to block access to the app. By 2020, the gov­ern­ment lift­ed its ban, say­ing Telegram had agreed to sev­er­al con­di­tions. Accord­ing to the NYT:

Rather than sti­fling Telegram, the Krem­lin tries to con­trol the nar­ra­tive there, not just through its own chan­nels but by pay­ing for posts, said Mr. She­p­elin, the media ana­lyst. The num­ber of sub­scribers to offi­cial or hard-line chan­nels dwarfs the audi­ence for opponents.

In March 2022, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed that the DFR­Lab had iden­ti­fied a Russ­ian Telegram chan­nel pur­port­ing to be a fact-check­ing ser­vice but was, in real­i­ty, a sig­nif­i­cant source of dis­in­for­ma­tion on the Ukraine con­flict. In May 2022, we report­ed that there had been a mas­sive increase in pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da being shared on Ger­man Telegram chan­nels, some of which were able to amass more than 145,000 subscribers.


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