The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), an international think tank, has recently published a report identifying key pro-Putin Facebook accounts engaged in administering, moderating, and contributing to large public Facebook groups with hundreds of thousands of members and generating millions of posts across the platform. According to the ISD report:
April 4, 2022 ISD research conducted on Facebook from February through March 2022 indicates a network of pro- Putin duplicate accounts, pro-Putin groups, and pro- Kremlin pages, are astroturfing Putin and Kremlin support across the platform. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, these networks, which have been on the platform for years, are increasing their content production, and primarily focus on a defensive propaganda strategy that paints Putin as an “ethical leader” and a “hero” for standing up to Western aggression. Using the Facebook social monitoring tool CrowdTangle, ISD researchers assessed the impact of the content shared by the pro-Putin power users, groups and pages that are a part of a loosely coordinated, seemingly inauthentic network. ISD researchers identified 10 pro-Putin groups with a collective membership of 652,582 on Facebook sharing adoring Putin photos and videos in English, Russian, Farsi, Arabic and Khmer. […] The administrators, moderators, and key contributors of the top 10 pro-Putin public groups on Facebook are stacked with pro-Putin power users with duplicate accounts, all of which are engaged in seeding and sharing pro-Putin content across the platform. […] The top power users have shared thousands of photographs and videos of Putin in pro-Putin groups, where they function as administrators, moderators, and top contributors. […] The top 10 users are connected through their friends’ networks to other power users with duplicate accounts, also spreading pro-Kremlin and pro-Putin content across Facebook. […] Six pro-Kremlin Facebook pages with more than 500,000 followers were similarly functioning as moderators and administrators of the same pro-Putin groups moderated by pro-Putin power users.
Read the full report here.
The report notes that as the Ukraine war continues and Russian support for the conflict wanes, these key pro-Putin users will play an “increasingly important role in astroturfing support across languages and regions, masking any decline in support.”
In February, the Global Influence Operations Report reported that Facebook had taken down 40 profiles tied to a 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.
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