March 11 2022, 14:22 pm

Russian Telegram “Fact-Checking” Channel Is Major Source of Ukraine Disinformation

The Atlantic Council’s DFR­Lab is report­ing on a Russ­ian Telegram chan­nel pur­port­ing to be a fact-check­ing ser­vice but, in real­i­ty, itself a major source of dis­in­for­ma­tion on the Ukraine con­flict. Accord­ing to the DFR­Lab report, Война с фейками (“War on Fakes”) is now one of the top Telegram chan­nels in Russia:

On Feb­ru­ary 23, 2022, the Telegram chan­nel Война с фейками (“War on Fakes”) first appeared online, end­ing its first day with a mod­est 161 sub­scribers. It quick­ly sky­rock­et­ed; with­in two weeks, War on Fakes grew to over 625,000 sub­scribers and is now one of the top Telegram chan­nels in Rus­sia, with a reach of more than 30 mil­lion dai­ly views. The chan­nel, which presents itself as debunk­ing the “infor­ma­tion war against Rus­sia,” spreads dis­in­for­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da under the façade of a fact-check­ing ser­vice. Its stag­ger­ing growth since its incep­tion indi­cates it may be gain­ing trac­tion more broad­ly, includ­ing through the pub­lish­ing of an Eng­lish-lan­guage web­site. The War on Fakes’ oper­a­tors describe them­selves on its Eng­lish-lan­guage web­site as “the own­ers and admin­is­tra­tors of sev­er­al non-polit­i­cal telegram chan­nels.” They con­tin­ue, “We don’t do pol­i­tics. But we con­sid­er it impor­tant to pro­vide objec­tive infor­ma­tion about what is hap­pen­ing in Ukraine and the ter­ri­to­ries of Don­bass, since we see signs of an infor­ma­tion war launched against Rus­sia.” This intro­duc­tion is intend­ed to present War on Fakes as an objec­tive source for fact-check­ing mis- and dis­in­for­ma­tion about the Rus­sia-Ukraine con­flict, despite its extreme pro-Rus­sia bias. A pinned post to the Telegram chan­nel points toward a Russ­ian ver­sion of web­site, xn — 80aaenqccitej3b1b.xn — p1ai. The DFR­Lab is not link­ing direct­ly to the web­page because Microsoft Edge and Fire­fox mal­ware detec­tors both warn that the site is mali­cious. A scan of the channel’s posts makes it clear that War on Fakes is not objec­tive, instead push­ing con­tent to sup­port nar­ra­tives echoed by Russ­ian state media and the Krem­lin. Its com­men­tary refers to the war in Ukraine exclu­sive­ly as the “spe­cial oper­a­tion in Ukraine” (“спецоперация в Украине”), fol­low­ing Krem­lin pol­i­cy to not refer to the sit­u­a­tion as a “war” or “inva­sion.”

Read the rest here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed ear­li­er this month that Telegram was emerg­ing as one of the more covert influ­ence vehi­cles Rus­sia will be rely­ing upon in light of the shut­down of its state media oper­a­tions in the West. We also report­ed on some of the unique aspects of Telegram that posi­tion the social mes­sag­ing ser­vice as a vehi­cle for disinformation.


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