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.
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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.