March 16 2021, 11:37 am

RECOMMENDED READING: “Information Laundering in Germany”

The NATO Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Cen­tre of Excel­lence (Strat­Com COE), a NATO cen­ter that seeks to counter dis­in­for­ma­tion and online influ­ence oper­a­tions, has pub­lished a new study on Russ­ian infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions in Ger­many. The report, titled “Infor­ma­tion Laun­der­ing in Ger­many,” details how Rus­sia has used “infor­ma­tion laun­der­ing process­es” to spread its influ­ence in the Ger­man media envi­ron­ment, tar­get­ing report­ing about Covid-19, Alex­ei Naval­ny, and North Stream‑2. Infor­ma­tion laun­der­ing is described as follows:

Infor­ma­tion laun­der­ing (IL) is a strat­a­gem used by hos­tile actors with­in an infor­ma­tion influ­ence cam­paign. In this process, false or deceit­ful infor­ma­tion is legit­imised through a net­work of inter­me­di­aries that grad­u­al­ly apply a set of tech­niques to dis­tort it and obscure the orig­i­nal source.

Read the full report here.

The study exam­ines two types of infor­ma­tion laun­der­ing, with dif­fer­ent audi­ences and intend­ed effects: IL‑A describes domes­tic actors laun­der­ing for­eign or inter­na­tion­al news events, trans­lat­ing them into Ger­man, delib­er­ate­ly or acci­den­tal­ly, enabling the spread of the Kremlin’s influ­ence in the Ger­man media envi­ron­ment. IL‑B describes for­eign actors laun­der­ing domes­tic Ger­man news events to shape per­spec­tives about Ger­many for an inter­na­tion­al or for­eign audi­ence. The study finds that pro-Krem­lin and Krem­lin-offi­cial media repeat­ed­ly ampli­fied the voic­es of Ger­man polit­i­cal and pub­lic fig­ures, pri­mar­i­ly from the far-right Alter­na­tive für Deutsch­land (AfD) and left­ist Die Linke. These were used to pro­vide cred­i­bil­i­ty to the laun­dered con­tent. The study fur­ther iden­ti­fied the fol­low­ing domes­tic key actors enabling the spread of Krem­lin IL:

  • Inter­na­tion­al actors that pub­lish in sev­er­al lan­guages, main­ly in Eng­lish and Russ­ian, but also run Ger­man lan­guage plat­forms. E.g., SOTT, News- Front, Shafaqna.
  • Ger­man-lan­guage ver­sions of Krem­lin- offi­cial media, e.g. RT and Sputnik.
  • Main proxy plat­forms: the Word­Press’ blog ‘Co-op Anti-War Café Berlin’ and both share con­tent from Sput­nik Ger­many and RT Deutsch, as well as from the plat­form Telepolis.
  • Ger­man actors that are gen­er­al­ly men­tioned or ref­er­enced in IL process­es to pro­vide cred­i­bil­i­ty to IL tech­niques: His­to­ri­an Alexan­der Rahr, who was also Senior Advi­sor on Rus­sia for Win­ter­shall Hold­ing (2012–2015) and Gazprom (from 2015), AfD’s Walde­mar Herdt, and Ger­man-Russ­ian Forum Chair­man Matthias Platzeck.
  • Ger­man news­pa­per Der Tagesspiegel sto­ries were used by Krem­lin-offi­cial and pro-Krem­lin media as a source for IL. This does not make Der Tagesspiegel an active part of IL – Krem­lin and pro-Krem­lin out­lets take the accu­rate report­ing of news events by the Ger­man reput­ed out­let and dis­tort it through IL techniques.
  • Key­words-based IL research iden­ti­fied actors pub­lish­ing pieces that, for rea­sons of chronol­o­gy and nar­ra­tives pushed, could be some­how linked to laun­der­ing process­es. How­ev­er, IL tech­niques were not clear­ly iden­ti­fied, and more research needs to be con­duct­ed to ver­i­fy par­tic­i­pa­tion in Ger­man IL.

Pre­vi­ous Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ing on Russ­ian infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions in Europe has included:

  • In March, we report­ed that an EU study found that Ger­many is the main focus of Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts in Europe.
  • In the same month, we report­ed on a study con­clud­ing that Rus­sia is using Russ­ian and West­ern left-wing com­men­ta­tors to laun­der its infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions and remove traces of its influence.


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