Russian’s RT Leads a Global “Information Militia” on Social Media to Bypass Censorship on Ukraine-Related Disinformation
An Investigative Report – October 2022
Nisos researchers discovered a new Telegram channel that serves as a video repository for Russian propaganda content related to the war in Ukraine. Every video was subtitled and captioned in a different language, with hashtags used to organize a multilingual outreach effort for social media dissemination.
Further research revealed that Russia Today (RT) was behind the channel, and that Margarita Simonyan personally promoted the effort as an “information militia” for global audiences. RT is a Russian state-controlled international news television network funded by the Russian government. It operates pay television and free-to-air channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in Russian, English, Spanish, French, German and Arabic.
We traced the videos’ dissemination on social media, focusing mainly on Twitter, and discovered at least 275 Twitter accounts promoting content in 18 languages, with 123 of the accounts showing clear signs of coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB). We also observed strong links to ofﬁcial Russian ministry, embassy, and/or media accounts. We also found about a dozen accounts on alternative social media such as Gab, Getter, and Truth Social.
Our research surfaced additional findings that could shed light on evolving Russian TTPs in the context of the Ukraine war. First, the IO campaign appears to have leveraged Twitter accounts that were already being used to boost Russian Embassy accounts or RT’s various language editions, suggesting crossover and support between government and media accounts. Second, the main multilingual account on Twitter was closely linked to Turkish users, in addition to official Russian accounts. Third, there was a coordinated and highly active subnetwork of Japanese accounts. Fourth, a quantitative analysis showed that the campaign deployed the most assets in Spanish and Italian, followed closely by English, French, and Japanese. The second-tier languages are German, Chinese, Turkish, Polish, and Russian.
Regarding Gab, Gettr, and Truth Social: Many of the users (some likely authentic) are also sharing from Russian propaganda Telegram channels, suggesting increasing crossover from Telegram to the newer social media platforms.
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