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Russia is at the forefront of information warfare in the modern age, utilising an array of organisations and strategies to spread disinformation to further national strategy but how are they doing it?

Every now and then we come across a report from one of the many Russian state broadcasters that have more than remarkable headlines revolving around military equipment (more often than not the F-35 as seen below) and it seems fairly obvious that the piece has a clear agenda but why is this being done?

An example of output aimed directly at western defence programmes.

As many outlets reported at the time, when Sweden was engaged in a vigorous national debate on whether they should enter a partnership with NATO, officials in the country suddenly encountered a flood of false information on social media. Alarming claims like the the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil or NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval were among the more tame headlines.

They were false but the rumours had begun spilling into conventional news media. Numerous analysts and experts in intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centrepiece of the foreign policy of the nation.

Even the UK Defence Journal has been contacted by various Russian based ‘news organisations’ looking for soundbites whenever we publish a story about an MoD blunder or questionable government decision.

The flood of inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATO and the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation.

The most effective instrument in this effort appears to be Russia Today, the organisation has been frequently described as a propaganda outlet for the Russian government and media regulator, Ofcom, has repeatedly found RT to have breached rules on impartiality, and of broadcasting “materially misleading” content.

In the paper ‘Computational Propaganda in Russia: The Origins of Digital Misinformation’ Sergey Sanovich argues that the digital propaganda of the Russian government seeks to insulate Putin’s leadership from any domestic challengers and aid in his foreign policy ventures, which increasingly sets Russian interests off against the West.

The study argues that the propaganda tools, including trolls and bots, were conceived and perfected in the pockets of political competition and a globally integrated market economy still left in Putin’s Russia.

“It’s argued that Russia could be on a mission to restore its Soviet or imperial glory and to prevent liberal democratic values from taking root in the Russian political system. 

Yetthe tools used are precisely the ones developed in the most internationally competitive part of the Russian economy that emerged during the liberal 1990s and (until recently) was not subject to heavy-handed interventions by the government: the online media and tech sector.”

They really have a thing for the F-35, don’t they?

The paper concludes that the fact that bots and trolls thrive in the low-trust, anything goes, prove-it-on-the-spot environment. People share sensational and alarmist headlines without much verification more often on social media than any other medium.

The paper also advises that that building up the reputation of mainstream media, ensuring their objectivity, fairness and professional integrity are trusted by the public would do more than anything else to deny Russian digital propaganda the power it currently wields.

“These external limitations, coupled with the vibrancy and tightness of and the emphasis on the burden of proof in the Russian blogosphere, required the government to build sophisticated tools of online propaganda and counter-propaganda.

They combined the ability of bots to jam unfriendly and amplify friendly content and the inconspicuousness of trolls posing as real people and providing elaborate proof of even their most patently false and outlandish claims.

Beyond that, exposing trolls and bots as well as the nuts and bolts of their campaigns could help both to educate the public in how to avoid falling for the misinformation they spread and to find technological means of disrupting their activity.”

19 COMMENTS

  1. It says something that I find weaponised misinformation to be the most terrifying conventional weapon on the planet right now.

    It was that weapon that almost split the UK in two a few years ago for one. We keep seeing it popping up everywhere.

      • Kindly point to where in my post I said the Russians were behind it, please?

        I said “weaponised misinformation”, the SNP are notorious for doing the same. At no point did I say anything about Russia.

        Although given the last SNP leader just joined Russia’s propaganda channel…who knows now.

  2. A key part of any disinformation campaign is to also provide true information, and even information that nobody else is reporting. Hence it makes itself useful – and credible.

    But it doesn’t take a genius to be able to see slant in the stories, and the victims are all too often delighted to use the misinformation, even if they know it’s false.

  3. Board level security advisor at major global banks told me Russia has an entire non state actor cyber capability at the beck and all of the state. Plausible deniability allows Putin to say ‘Russia’ didn’t do it & almost be truthful…

  4. We all need to be savvy. But or own government has consistently lied, telling the public that the RN is growing. I don’t think the RN has been smaller since Medieval times.

    The BBC seems to be more loyal to the EU than the UK.

  5. Mind you it doesn’t help when the leader of the opposition is a Moscow puppet, who has stated that if/when he gets into power he would pull out of NATO and build a security arrangement with Russia.

    His supporters love the idea, and a lot of that comes from the disinformation which Moscow feeds them.

    • Corbyn just hates the free west.

      Russian, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, bankrupt Venezuela and Irish Republican terrorists are all better than the western democracy we live in.

  6. Russian uses propaganda to undermine west.

    No different from when the Soviet Union used propaganda to undermine the west.

    All the naive lefties lap it up as the truth, I recall the propaganda against the neutron bomb, cruise missiles et al.

    Using propaganda against us by totalitarian states has to be accepted in a free country, Russia is totalitarian state.

    • Hi Mike

      I agree entirely that Russia is using propaganda as did the Soviets – but these days you’re as likely to find fellow travellers in the ranks of Ukip supporters as you are the SWP, because the current cyber propaganda is more sophisticated – much of uitlising the post-modernist stance of relativism, whereby we can never get to ‘the’ truth so that there may be many ‘truths’ out there. In a suspicious age with internet access to all sorts if weird sites, working out which information sites are trustworthy, is getting harder. Though it does beat me why we allow Sputnik Radio to broadcast here in the UK.

      best wishes Tim

  7. The thing about RT and Sputnik articles is that they always source a western outlet for the actual quote or content.

    They are regurgitating what they found already in the Western fake news landscape (which is vast).

    Theresa May’s speech last night was shameful.
    She is trying to cast the Brexit vote as Russian-interfered & therefore illegitimate.

    • I thought May’s speech was absolutely on the money. But I wouldn’t worry, there’s little change of the vote being declared null-and-void. We are where we are.

    • I did not read May’s comments that way.
      17 million plus people are not in part influenced by Moscow.
      They are influenced by what is happening to their nation and have had enough of it!!

  8. simple just go the RT website and it is obviously clear with its BS anti west stories but never has a go at the kremlin and its mistakes

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