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Reach of Pro-Russian ‘Independent Journalists’ Has Grown Dramatically Amid Ukraine Crisis, Study Finds

June 15th, 2022 14:42

US media is report­ing that a new study has found that a small net­work of pro-Krem­lin con­tent cre­ators pos­ing as inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists have seen their audi­ences grow dra­mat­i­cal­ly in recent months while spread­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion about the war in Ukraine. Accord­ing to an NBC News report:

June 8, 2022 A small net­work of pro-Krem­lin con­tent cre­ators have seen their audi­ences grow dra­mat­i­cal­ly in recent months while spread­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion about the war in Ukraine, evad­ing social media plat­forms’ efforts to curb Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da and paving a path to West­ern audi­ences, accord­ing to research pub­lished Wednes­day.  The cre­ators are self-described “inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists” whose reports are often made from Russ­ian-occu­pied areas of Ukraine and ampli­fy Krem­lin talk­ing points and down­play or deny report­ed Russ­ian atroc­i­ties. Researchers say the on-the-ground reports — which come in Eng­lish, French, Ger­man and oth­er lan­guages — have proved effec­tive at cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing com­mit­ments from Euro­pean gov­ern­ments and U.S.-based social media plat­forms to stop the spread of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da. […] Con­tent cre­ators and social media influ­encers have emerged in the past year as one of the new­er avenues for dis­in­for­ma­tion. Some YouTu­bers exposed a plot to use cre­ators to spread Covid dis­in­for­ma­tion, while The Asso­ci­at­ed Press report­ed in March that China’s gov­ern­ment had found suc­cess with its own net­work of Eng­lish-lan­guage cre­ators.  The war against Ukraine has been a boon to once small-time, Krem­lin-friend­ly con­tent cre­ators, some of whom have been active for years. The researchers iden­ti­fied a group of 12 of the most influ­en­tial of these cre­ators, who post to social sites includ­ing YouTube, Telegram, Face­book and Twitter.

Read the rest here.

Cit­ing a study by the Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue, the NBC report iden­ti­fies the fol­low­ing West­ern con­tent cre­ators as among the most influ­en­tial pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­dists who have seen a rapid audi­ence growth in recent months:

  • Ali­na Lipp, a for­mer local politi­cian of the Green par­ty in Ger­many whose audi­ence grew from about 2,000 in Feb­ru­ary to over 160,000 in May
  • Eva Bar­lett, a Cana­di­an activist who has amassed almost 19,000 sub­scribers on Telegram
  • Gon­za­lo Lira, a Chilean Amer­i­can activist who has amassed more than 81,000 sub­scribers on Telegram
  • Patrick Lan­cast­er, a US Navy intel­li­gence vet­er­an whose YouTube chan­nel has grown from 57,500 sub­scribers to more than 500,000

In May, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report report­ed that there had been a “mas­sive increase” in pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da being shared on Ger­man Telegram chan­nels, iden­ti­fy­ing Ali­na Lipp’s “Neues aus Rus­s­land” Telegram chan­nel as the most suc­cess­ful of these accounts.

The GIOR recent­ly report­ed on a new report from a UK gov­ern­ment-fund­ed research cen­ter which argues that in the future, Rus­sia will focus on ampli­fy­ing ‘organ­ic’ nar­ra­tives advanced by either fringe actors or main­stream actors that suit its aims.