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Monday, April 8, 2024

Russian Influence Operations Today

Many posts have discussed myths and misinformation.

Catherine Belton and Joseph Menn at WP:

When President Biden proposed an additional $24 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine in August, Moscow spin doctors working for the Kremlin were ready to try to undermine public support for the bill, internal Kremlin documents show.

Many of the documents contain metadata showing they were written by members of a team working for Ilya Gambashidze, head of the Moscow PR firm Social Design Agency. The United States imposed sanctions on Gambashidze last month for his involvement in “a persistent foreign malign influence campaign” at the Kremlin’s direction, including the creation of websites designed to impersonate legitimate media outlets in Europe, part of a campaign that Western officials have called “Doppelganger.”


Plans by Gambashidze’s team refer to using “short-lived” social media accounts aimed at avoiding detection. Social media manipulators have established a technique of using accounts to send out links to material and then deleting their posts or accounts once others have reshared the content. The idea is to obscure the true origin of misleading information and keep the channel open for future influence operations, disinformation researchers said.

Propaganda operatives have used another technique to spread just a web address, rather than the words in a post, to frustrate searches for that material, according to the social media research company Alethea, which called the tactic “writing with invisible ink.” Other obfuscation tricks include redirecting viewers through a series of seemingly random websites until they arrive at a deceptive article.


Fake news articles alleging Zelensky’s corruption pushed out by Russian-linked websites during the congressional debates on assistance for Ukraine in the fall have resonated. One of the most successful claims was disseminated by DC Weekly — a respectable-seeming internet outlet, which disinformation researchers at Clemson University traced back to domains affiliated with a former American police officer, John Mark Dougan, who has reinvented himself as a pro-Russian journalist in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Through DC Weekly, a fake news story alleging that Zelensky had bought two yachts with American aid money went viral in November. The claim — patently false and denied by Zelensky’s government — was picked up by far-right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who linked to a story about the rumor on X.